Wednesday Letters: Biofuels, Abortion–Fair markets
by Geoff Cooper (Renewable Fuels Association/Houston Chronicle) Regarding “Reporter’s notebook: Do we still need advanced biofuels?” (chron.com, Monday), the article misunderstands the iterative nature of innovation and technology development.
Disruptive, game-changing technologies don’t simply appear overnight – they evolve. Today’s smart phones trace their roots to the primitive wireless handsets of the 1980s and simple flip phones of the 1990s. Modern lightweight high-definition flat panel TVs evolved from fuzzy black-and-white cathode ray tubes set into clunky, piano-sized cabinets.
Converting the cellulosic fiber that resides in the corn kernel into liquid biofuel is just the first step in the ethanol industry’s evolution toward other cellulosic feedstocks. But it is a significant step. The learning and experience that come from converting corn fiber to ethanol will pave the way to the next iteration of cellulosic biofuels.
If all 200 existing corn ethanol facilities across the country adopted cellulosic fiber conversion technologies, we would have the ability to produce roughly 1 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel – a 250-fold increase over today’s cellulosic ethanol output. And it could happen soon; in many cases, installing this technology at existing facilities takes less than three months. To be sure, the largest obstacle to broad commercialization of cellulosic ethanol is not the cost of the technology; rather, it is lack of access to a market controlled by multi-national oil giants. READ MORE