Biofuel Alternative to Ethanol

The University of Wisonsin, Madison (great campus) has announced that researchers have been able to derive a fuel source from plant sugars. This fuel has a higher energy density than ethanol, with lower energy requirements for production. This is a good thing, because (some argue) ethanol has a nearly 1:1 energy return. For every erg of energy you get out of ethanol during transportation, you have to put an erg in during production. Compare that to a 25:1 return from gasoline, and you’ll see why I don’t think ethanol is a viable alternative fuel source. Sure, it could subsitute for gasoline, but we will require 25 times more energy production elsewhere, and currently that means more natural gas, oil, or coal burning. Not a good solution. Of course, if we went thoroughly nuclear in our electric generation, we would eliminate a large percentage of primary generation greenhouse gas emissions at the same time we were providing enough surplus energy to produce a less-than-cost-effective fuel. But that is another post.

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