The Future of Biofuels: The Post-Alcohol World
(The Economist) Biofuels are back. This time they might even work.
MAKE something people want to buy at a price they can afford. Hardly a revolutionary business strategy, but one that the American biofuels industry has, to date, eschewed. Now a new wave of companies think that they have the technology to change the game and make unsubsidised profits. If they can do so reliably, and on a large scale, biofuels may have a lot more success in freeing the world from fossil fuels than they have had until now.
Appropriately designed drop-in fuels can substitute for diesel and aviation fuel, which ethanol cannot. That increases the size of the potential market. They also have advantages on the production side. Because crude oils from different places have different chemical compositions, containing some molecules engines won’t like, oil refineries today need to do a lot of careful tweaking. The same applies to the production of biodiesel from plant oils. Genetically engineered bugs making hydrocarbons more or less from scratch could guarantee consistent quality without the hassle, thus perhaps commanding a premium with no extra effort. Meanwhile the feedstock could be nice and cheap… READ MORE