An ethanol-powered Chevrolet HHR and Ford F-150 paraded through the nation’s capital today in preparation for the Washington Auto Show, which begins tomorrow and lasts five days. First held in 1921, in the mid eighties, the show came to reserve the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It was later moved to the end of January to exploit the end of Congressional recess. All the better for Novozymes’ publicity stunt this year.
Novozymes sought to highlight biofuel enzyme technology, the product of collaboration with Fiberight. This new fuel is derived from waste products including agricultural residues and municipal waste. These particular cars were powered by fuel produced from government waste paper and cardboard. At a time when there is great concern that using corn-based ethanol will drive up food prices, cellulosic ethanol from the parts of plants not eaten by humans offers great promise. The display underscored remarks at the Platts Cellulosic Ethanol Conference in October of 2008. At that conference, Coskata, a renewable energy company with strong ties to GM, discussed the “Coskata Process,” wherein anything that contains carbon can be turned into a gas and fed to microbes. The byproduct of their consumption is pure ethanol. Coskata claims they can produce ethanol for $1 per gallon and that the technology achieves a 96 percent reduction in greenhouse gases compared to gasoline.What’s more, the DOE estimates that cellulosic ethanol achieves only an 86% reduction.
Novozymes, also speaking at the Platts conference, discussed some of their methods for converting waste biomass, including municipal waste, into ethanol. The final speaker, from SunOpta, talked about the company’s three decades of experience in building ethanol plants. The SunOpta representative pointed out that many technologies which work on a small scale in a beaker do not function in larger, industrial contexts, but that SunOpta was continuing to find ways of streamlining the ethanol production process to reduce costs.[Sources: Autoblog here and here, New York Times x four, The Detorit Bureau, Washington Auto Show]