In a publicity stunt that attempts to prove a point about biofuels made from waste, a Chevy fueled with the byproducts of government office paper and cardboard will appear on the streets of Washington D.C. today.
A small company called Novozymes has collaborated with Maryland-based Fiberight to provide the demonstration fuel.
Taxpayers, who also underwrite the production of government paper, funded the research. Novozymes received two contracts from the Department of Energy for its research efforts to bring down the cost of enzymes and improve their efficiency in converting cellulose to biofuels. The first contract for $2.2 million was given in 2002, and the second for $12.3 million was given in 2008.
Automakers are given fuel economy credits for producing ethanol-compatible vehicles even though few of them are ever operated on ethanol, which is not cost competitive with gasoline with current production methods.
It is thought that using biomass – inexpensive farm waste – could radically alter the economics of ethanol. For example, making ethanol from the cellulose of plants is less costly than using corn grain. Switch grass, a crop that grows readily in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, and corn leaves and stalks or other crop wastes are cheap to acquire and potentially solve the starvation issue, which arises from using corn for fuel instead of feed.
The lower cost could also end the huge taxpayer subsidies, although the farm lobby holds powerful sway in the “pay to play” Washington scene and has successful defended against reformers its taxpayer supplied pork for decades. (more…)