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Published on August 13th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Ethanol Process that Boosts Recoverable Energy By 2000%?

August 13th, 2012 by  

If this news below is legit, this is quite a big deal. Ethanol isn’t exactly the most loved of alternative fuel options, but this Michigan State University breakthrough below could help to boost its use and popularity. Here’s the low-down from Chris of sister site Gas2:

New Ethanol Process Boosts Recoverable Energy By 2000% (via Gas 2.0)

With so much focus on electric cars these days, it can be easy to forget how much money and effort is being funneled into biofuels. Ethanol has gotten a bad rap in recent years, with everyone from conservative deficit hawks to liberal environmentalists deriding it as a dead end. But a new breakthrough…

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Bob_Wallace

    That “stover” is not going to waste.  It’s the organic matter that future crops use.  

    Strip it all off the fields and we do nothing but hydroponic farming with the remaining “soil” serving no purpose other than anchoring plant roots.  

    Decomposing on the ground is a valuable process.  Disking in makes it even more valuable.  That leads to “alive” soil, with microorganisms furnishing part of the nutrients that crops need.  And the organic matter in the soil acts as a sponge, soaking up and storing water for later use by growing plants.

    Where this technology might make most sense is used with perennial grasses grown on marginal, non-food production land.  Crop land would not be degraded and unusable land put into production.  (Perennial grasses actually improve the land on which they grow, possibly bringing some of it back into food/fiber production.) 

  • Matt

    If this is true, and assuming they didn’t drive the cost up 2000% also. It is really big news. If you drive through the corn belt in late fall after harvest you will see many (most?) corn fields with the “corn stover” left in the field. If not feeding your own cows there isn’t a market for it. So there is a lot of it just decomposing on the ground.
    If it is the “corn stover” and not the corn. Then the final question is, how much energy/cost do you put into gather, process to get the fuel. What are your other costs for the process.

    • Tom G.

      Bob Wallace must have grown up on a farm like me many years ago, LOL  There is no such thing as ‘waste’.  The so called ‘waste’ adds valuable nutrients to the soil which help the next crop grow.  Removing all of the so called ‘waste’ from the fields will over time turns the soil sour; well that is what Midwestern farmers used to call it.  Soil that lacks active bacteria, enzymes, minerals, etc. will as Bob indicated will just stop growing new plants.   

      However, we [the people] have created this ethanol fuel industry and I am certainly one of those individuals who have reservations regarding its value.  However, until laws change we should try to produce as much ethanol as possible from each unit of crop we decide to use for this purpose.  Doing anything less would just result in more claims of waste.

      In summary – I do not think ethanol as a fuel adds much overall value to our society. 

      Good posting Bob.  

      • Bob_Wallace

        Grew up on my grandfather’s farm. He, like everyone else, was an organic farmer, back when all farming was organic. We farmed with horses and the barn cleanings from horses and cows along with the poop from the chicken house were our fertilizers.

        The poop and bedding were composted along with tobacco stalks and anything else that made it out of the fields. He grew cover crops in between ‘money crops’ in order to improve the land. He rotated hay and grazing fields to improve the soil.

        My father switched to “chemical gardening”. He used commercial fertilizers and grew great crops. But over the years the soil turned into something ‘dead’. It was hard to work, it didn’t absorb water well, and it dried out quickly. Tennessee red clay with no organic matter in it is not fun to work with. Later when the modern organic movement started getting attention my father switched back to organic gardening.

        I’ve been an organic gardener for forty years.

        As oil gets more expensive (which is why we’re seeing this push to make ethanol) chemical fertilizers are going to get more expensive. Taking organic matter from the soil and turning it into fuel, then having to take fuel and turn it into fertilizer just doesn’t make sense.

        Can we just move on to driving with electricity and quit this liquid fuel foolishness?

        • Tom G.

          Someday we will all be driving electric vehicles. I just can’t wait for that to happen. Excellent posting.

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