Could “renewable petroleum” be coming our way?
Picture a liquid fuel that is derived from the same feedstocks as cellulosic ethanol (switchgrass, sugarcane, corn stover) but contains 50 percent more energetic content and is made via a process that uses 65 percent less energy. Unlike cellulosic ethanol, this fuel can be distributed via existing oil pipelines rather than fuel-hogging trucks and trains, dispensed through existing gas stations rather than specialized pumps, and used in existing engines rather than modified “flex-fuel” engines. In short, it is a biofuel that can be substituted directly and immediately for gasoline or diesel, on a gallon-for-gallon basis. Sound too good to be true? David Roberts talks to a company, LS9, that claims it can produce just such a fuel at a cost competitive with gasoline.