Fix America with BioFuels 2012-04-22 19:35:15
America has a lot of problems these days, but there's a single solution that would attack pollution, joblessness AND reliance on foreign oil:
Huge strides have been made in the field of biofuels, foremost being the ability to distill Ethanol and Butanol from cellulose, the primary organic compound in all plant life. While old BioEthanol could only be distilled from the tiny sugary seeds of its feedstock, throwing the rest away, Cellulosic BioFuels can not only generate fuel from the entire plant, but from any source of cellulose, including simple prairie grass or garbage like paper and sawdust.
While Nuclear, Solar, Wind and Water power work great at generating grid electricity, there is no easy alternative to gasoline for vehicular fuel (cars, planes, boats, etc). Not only do Hydrogen Fuel Cells and Electric Batteries underperform compared to gas, implementing them nation-wide would require a massively expensive infrastructural overhaul. However, Ethanol, as a combustible liquid, is very similar to gasoline and more importantly, already in use. Many states actually require all gasoline to contain at least 10% ethanol (E10), and most vehicle models are manufactured as "flex-fuel" vehicles, capable of running anything between E10 and E85 (85% ethanol) mixtures. Over 2500 stations in the USA are already equipped to sell E85. The technology is nothing new either; the famous Model T was capable of running on 100% ethanol. And Butanol goes one better, being close enough to gasoline that it can be used in existing vehicles and fueling stations without any modifications. (Although Butanol is toxic and may face EPA restrictions)
Originally, Ethanol crops were disdained for taking farmland away from foodcrops, causing soil and water erosion and requiring green-house gas emitting tractors and combines, but distilling Ethanol from cellulose removes all these problems. Cellulose is present in all plant life, so there's no need to grow exotic, high maintenance species like fuel corn. Sawgrass, the primary feedstock candidate, grows naturally throughout the United States, doesn't require fertilizer, extra water, farmland or much attention and absorbs as much CO2 from the atmosphere while alive as it will emit as a fuel. Some suspect that using waste paper as feedstock would also cut down on green-house gasses because they naturally decay into methane, which has a higher green-house effect than gas or ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol is estimated to produce 90% less (only 10% as much) green house gasses as gasoline over its fuel life-cycle.
While America has all but run out of its natural oil reserves, the country is still an agricultural powerhouse, more than capable of producing enough ethanol to meet the needs of its citizens, commercial fleets and hi-tech military vehicles. According to one study, America could cover 30% of its fuel needs with garbage alone, enough to replace our imports of oil from Saudi Arabia. Rather than import fuel, America could export finished ethanol to countries without the industrial technology to handle large distilleries or cellulosic feedstocks to countries that cannot grow the necessary biomass on their own, not to mention cars, planes, ships and military vehicles that run on biofuels. Of course, shifting the American fuel infrastructure will require decades of changes and a lot of money, but building a fuel distillery, changing a fuel line or upgrading a fuel station is work that can only be performed by Americans, so it's money that will be spent by America for America.
However, the BioFuel Revolution is not an opportunity just waiting for us to reach out and take it. The world is full of rapidly industrializing countries and diminishing fossil fuel reserves. Every second we sit idle, some other country is beating us at what should be our own game. Brazil produces and operates the world's largest fleet of ethanol vehicles. China has a cellulosic ethanol demonstration facility designed to deliver 3 million gallons of ethanol per year. Novozymes, the leading pioneer of cellulosic enzyme technology, is headquartered in Denmark.
America, we need to attack the biofuels and bring this issue to the forefront of our national discussion! Spread the word. Make sure your preferred Presidential candidate, congress people and local government authorities know that you care and vote for the people who will lead America to glory.
(Since this isn't a school paper, I haven't organized all the sources, but you can find a lot of this info from a google search or links on wikipedia. Most of this info is stuff I remember from a report I made in 2010, but today I suddenly feel pissed off about it. Romney and Obama will be receiving a copy soon. )