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Power Science

Startup Claims to Make $1/Gallon Ethanol 456

gnick writes to mention Wired is reporting that an Illinois startup is claiming they can make ethanol from most any organic material for around $1/gallon. Coskata, backed by General Motors and several other investors, uses a process that is bacteria based instead of some of the other available methods. The bacteria processes organic material that is fed into the reactor and secretes ethanol as a waste product.
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Startup Claims to Make $1/Gallon Ethanol

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  • logic (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:22PM (#22189988)
    so by this logic, we don't need to worry about efficiency, right? we could get 2% efficiency, but if we're getting it cheap, that's all that matters, right?
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:28PM (#22190028) Journal
    Whatever happened to the conspiracy theorists from my childhood, you know, the ones who always claimed "the car makers and big old buried that 100 mpg carburetor design", and the like!

    I don't know the merits of this particular deal, but it never made sense to me that "car makers" really cared one way or the other about the fuel costs (and the SUV craze has borne that out...)

  • by Dice ( 109560 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:33PM (#22190066)
    Who else remembers when gas was under $1/gal at the pump?
  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:40PM (#22190112)
    Thats right keep dropping production to drive the oil prices up. That will work
    for a while yet, but now everyone is gunning for them. They drove the oil prices
    up too high creating the incentives to start driving innovation to help eliminate
    them from our lives.
  • Re:stop the lies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:59PM (#22190228)
    Did you consider the cost to plant, harvest and produce potatoes and beets, etc vs corn?

    Potatoes cost $2017 per acre to produce.

    Corn on the other hand $502 per acre to produce.

    That is a rather large difference, corn production also requires next to no man power where
    as the production of potatoes (root bound crops) is considerably higher.

  • Brazilian Ethanol (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gustgr ( 695173 ) <> on Saturday January 26, 2008 @12:03AM (#22190252) Homepage
    Here in Brazil I've seen Ethanol being sold by $0.35/liter (~ $1.32/gallon) to the final consumer. I guess the ethanol industries can produce it by far less than $1/gallon. Here about 80% of our fleet of automobiles are powered by Ethanol (including my car), which is produced using sugar cane.

    Nevertheless, the mass cultivation of sugar cane is destroying several other agricultures, mainly in Brazil's South and Southeast regions, besides the fact that the producers and farmers usually burn the unused bagasse (crushed sugar cane) and the crops after harvests, being responsible for Brazil's high position in the rank of top polluters.
  • by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @12:11AM (#22190292) Homepage
    We can already turn everything based on carbon molecules into petroleum. []

    Why are we wasting our time and wasting food and alcohol?
  • Re:logic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <> on Saturday January 26, 2008 @12:22AM (#22190364) Homepage Journal
    Correct. Unfortunately, the current refinement processes still result in a more costly product per unit of energy than petroleum. Gasoline prices are close to making ethanol affordable, but not quite. The advantage to this process is that it would make ethanol cheaply. A result that is far more desirable than pure efficiency. If it's highly efficient in the end, all the better. :-)

    BTW, Pimentel still disagrees that ethanol is energy positive. He's really just being a jerk, pushing data that's nearly 30 years old. Not a single study that's independent of his numbers has shown the same results. The only problem is that there are enough gullible people who listen to him. :-/
  • by The One and Only ( 691315 ) * <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Saturday January 26, 2008 @12:29AM (#22190398) Homepage
    You don't get the feeling they're waiting for a critical point and then planning to release oil faster than ever for another 5 years, bankrupting everyone who invested in alternative energy, before lowering production again and repeating the cycle?
  • by actionbastard ( 1206160 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @12:43AM (#22190476)
    ...but now everyone is gunning for them.

    You must be new around here.

    We've been gunning for them since 1974.
  • Re:Great, but (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dookiesan ( 600840 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @08:10AM (#22192404)
    Here is my take on it without the personal attacks:

    The health of the environment must be sacrificed for some people to scrape by day to day. They work damn hard at miserable jobs just to give their children bread on the table. Life isn't easy and he resents people who want to teach lessons and force him to piss his daughter's college fund into the gas tank.

    He is saying that if you don't care about the cost of oil then you are either wealthy, insensitive or just naive--mistakenly thinking that this robotic reduction of difficult problems is intelligent thought. It's easy to say that you don't want oil refineries built when you ride a schoolbus for free.

    Not my words mind you...
  • by mattb112885 ( 1122739 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:35AM (#22193066)
    I think this is interesting, it surprised me when I did a little research and found you can get similar yields of butanol to those of ethanol (I'm not sure which is actually easier to purify and so on though. Two and a half gallons of ethanol [] can be produced from a bushel of corn, and a new process claims to give the same yield [].
  • Re:logic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @11:05AM (#22193266) Homepage Journal
    Well if would work with kudzu it would be wonderful.
    The funny thing is that kudzu really is about a perfect plant. It is editable. The leaves can be eaten is a salad and the roots can be eaten as a starch like a potato. The Flowers can be made in to a jelly. It can also be used for animal feed. It is also a legume so it actually puts nitrogen back into the soil. Even more if you plow the waist back in. And it grows with no fertizer and needs no chemicals. The problem is that well it grows like a weed.
  • Re:logic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <> on Saturday January 26, 2008 @11:56AM (#22193606) Homepage Journal

    I've looked at some recent studies by the US govt that show a net energy loss.

    Such as? Every recent government study I've seen says the exact opposite.

    e.g. The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update []:

    Studies conducted since the late 1970s have estimated the net energy value (NEV)
    of corn ethanol. However, variations in data and assumptions used among the
    studies have resulted in a wide range of estimates. This study identifies the factors
    causing this wide variation and develops a more consistent estimate. We conclude
    that the NEV of corn ethanol has been rising over time due to technological
    advances in ethanol conversion and increased efficiency in farm production. We
    show that corn ethanol is energy efficient as indicated by an energy output:input
    ratio of 1.34.
    --July 2002

    What you're probably thinking of is sensationalist headlines like this: Study says ethanol not worth the energy []

    "Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, the economy, or the environment," according to the study by Cornell's David Pimentel and Berkeley's Tad Patzek.

    Oh lookie. David Pimentel. What a shocker. :-/

    I think you'll find that energy-negative studies not conducted by Pimentel himself invariably contain a "Special Thanks to David Pimentel for providing data." Nice, eh?
  • by piotr.illichosky ( 1192109 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:13PM (#22197198)
    Here [Brazil] we have ethanol avaliable for ~$0,75. With the fuel crisis at 70's our government created an ethanol program wich included a law that makes all gas stations in the country sell ethanol, gasoline and diesel. Today our cars run with gasoline, ethanol ou both. But we have something that you haven't: sugar-cane, a lot of it. TIP: You can import ethanol from us...

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?