Tagged with ethanol

An interview with Mary Beth Stanek, General Motors energy director

Trucks with a green hue? GM is in heaven. What a difference three bucks a gallon makes. In the past year, General Motors has rallied state and federal support to get more E85 (an 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline blend) pumps at U.S. gas stations, launched a corn-hued marketing blitz, and announced that it is increasing production of its flex-fuel vehicles by 25 percent. Mary Beth Stanek, GM’s director of environment and energy, talked to Grist about ethanol’s role in GM’s fuel portfolio, SUVs’ bad rap, and future eclecticism at the pump.   How did E85 become one of …

What Brazil can teach the U.S. about energy and ethanol

In 2006, Brazil officially achieved “energy independence” — that is, its oil exports came into line with imports and cancelled them out. No longer beholden to foreign suppliers for its energy needs, the nation theoretically has no stake in costly Middle East military adventures to secure access to oil reserves. Grain alcohol? Haven’t touched the stuff since college. Photo: Whitehouse.gov Sounds like a certain colossus to the north has a lot to learn from Brazil’s recent energy strategy, huh? Indeed, much of Brazil’s energy independence stems from a successful ethanol program, which has replaced about 40 percent of gasoline use …

As its neighbors back biofuels, Central America gears up for business

Driving down either of El Salvador’s two principal highways, you’re almost sure to end up braking behind a pickup truck that’s jammed with people standing shoulder to shoulder. Occasionally these rural taxis are new vehicles, but most are rickety, rusted, and running on antiquated engines and exhaust-spewing diesel. Even though 48 percent of Salvadorans live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Program, the huge influx of remittances from migrants in the United States means that more Salvadorans are buying cars, formerly a luxury reserved only for the very rich. And El Salvador is not alone: while …

It’s time for a real ‘food vs. fuel’ debate

Can U.S. farmers keep filling the nation’s bellies as they scramble to fuel its cars? Given its evident gravity, the question has drawn remarkably little debate. Like it or not, though, more and more food is being devoted to fueling the nation’s 211-million-strong auto fleet. High gasoline prices, a dizzying variety of government supports, and an investment frenzy have caused corn-based ethanol production to more than triple since 1998. As recently as a year ago, corn seemed wildly overproduced. Suddenly, it’s a hot commodity. In 1998, about 5 percent of the corn harvest (526 million bushels) went into ethanol production, …

An interview with Missouri farmer and ethanol co-op member Brian Miles

Cultivating change? Photo: iStockphoto Like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him, Brian Miles spends his days working the family farm. Unlike his forebears, however, he also sits on the board of Mid-Missouri Energy, a farmer-owned ethanol cooperative in Malta Bend, Mo. Grist talked to Miles about the present ethanol boom, the potential for an ethanol bust, and the many splendors of fresh corn on the cob.   How did you get involved in the ethanol biz? Our state corn growers association had a meeting a few years ago, because they had isolated this area as a good spot for …

The Ethanol Bill

Congress prepares to soak the 2007 Farm Bill in ethanol, to the delight of agribiz.

"You can have Republicans and Democrats absolutely in lockstep agreement on certain issues in the farm bill, and it has nothing to do with parties. These issues tend to be commodity-driven," gushed USDA chief Mike Johanns. Uh-oh. Looks like a good old-fashioned "bipartisan consensus" has formed: time to use the 2007 Farm Bill as a tool for maximizing ethanol production -- which evidently doesn't already draw enough government support.

Biofuel pioneer Lee Lynd points the way toward a “carbohydrate economy”

Well before cellulosic ethanol became the hot new fuel, Lee Lynd was immersed in it. Since 1987, the engineering professor has been leading a major academic study group on cellulosic ethanol from his perch at Dartmouth. Before that, he even wrote his undergraduate honors thesis on it. Lee Lynd. Photo: Joseph Mehling/Dartmouth More recently, Lynd has been putting his technical expertise to the test in the marketplace. In 2005, he cofounded Mascoma, a cellulosic biomass-to-ethanol company that has just completed its second round of venture funding with support from Vinod Khosla and other investors. (Lynd serves as chief scientific officer.) …

Grains become fuel at the world’s first cellulosic ethanol demo plant

Our plant supplants your plant: a real-life cellulosic ethanol refinery. Photo: Iogen Sometimes it seems virtually anything can be made into fuel. As though, if we had the right technology, we could throw together old T-shirts, bumper stickers, and pine cones to make a magical elixir to run the millions of cars on North America’s highways. That’s not an entirely far-fetched scenario. The days of filling up our cars on dead dinosaur goo are likely coming to an end. Instead, we’ll be using fuel made from plants and plant waste. (Don’t hold your breath for the bumper stickers.) The great …

Not quite, but cellulosic ethanol may be coming sooner than you think

Even as organizations ranging from Consumers Union to the Cato Institute cast doubt on the environmental value of corn-based ethanol, facilities designed to make it are popping up by the dozen throughout the Midwest. Meanwhile, cellulosic ethanol — which can be derived from just about any plant matter — draws near-unanimous environmental raves. Trouble is, the technology required for producing it economically still hasn’t quite emerged. Thus, like the kid in the back seat on a long family car trip, investors and other interested observers have for years been demanding to know, “When are we gonna get there?” Over and …

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