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The Biofuel Industry Could be Revolutionized by…a Bug

ethanol plant

The world of biofuels might just be changed forever by a bug that is found in nearly every compost heap. Unlike traditionally used yeasts, the bug is very tolerant of tough plant matter. That means it could help convert a variety of raw materials—including willow, forest waste, and wheat stalks—into fuel.

The bug, dubbed TM242, is a Geobacillus bacterium that has been genetically altered so that it stops converting food into waste products besides ethanol. It also has a boosted metabolism.

The company spearheading the compost bug project, UK-based TMO Renewables, has already built a trial plant to demonstrate the process. According to the company, a plant fed into the TMO process could create 15% more ethanol and reduce its energy consumption by 35% to 50%.

To the dismay of many people (including myself), TMO’s technology will initially be used in bioethanol production from corn. However, they do plan to eventually use their process with so-called second-generation biofuels that are not created from foodstuffs.

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was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.


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