Here’s an interesting Wired article on enzymes from microbes and the production of cellulosic ethanol.
As a counter to the “gee whiz, isn’t it cool that we can do that?” nature of that article, here’s Kevin Hassett of AEI writing in Bloomberg:
Indeed, no matter how expensive fossil fuels become, ethanol will never be economical because it takes so much fossil fuel to produce. It might be possible that someday technological processes will emerge that make production of ethanol less reliant on fossil fuels, but the billions in subsidies to this point have left us with a process that is still a disgrace and an absurd waste of energy and taxpayers’ money.
And the Environmental Protection Agency has cited ethanol plants themselves for air pollution. In a letter to the industry’s trade group, the EPA noted that pollution was a problem in “most, if not all, ethanol facilities.” These plants produce large quantities of waste water as well.
Ethanol itself contributes to air pollution. Cars emit more air pollution when they run on gasoline containing ethanol than they do when running on gasoline alone. Our environment would be greener if we stopped relying on ethanol.
Thanks to Dr. Vino for emailing me the Bloomberg link.