Wednesday, January 9, 2008

bad ethanol, better mobile home, exciting bacteria

there have been lots of studies on the matter of how worthwhile producing ethanol from corn sugars is and here is another one. the studies seem to claim that the process of growing corn, converting it to ethanol and transporting the ethanol to the gas station actually uses more fuel than it produces. it is a subsidy for big corporate farms being sold by politicians as a support for middle america. hydrogen as a fuel is worse in every way than ethanol, but ethanol is pretty terrible. i'll devote a rant to hydrogen at some point. no time today. more vitriol directed at first generation ethanol in the US.

the basic idea of manufactured homes makes sense to me. workers going to the same factory every day making basically the same house every day instead of each worker being individually contracted and going to a new site every week just sounds more efficient. unfortunately, these houses come with a stigma. one professor at Mississippi State U is trying to remove part of this stigma by increasing their quality and environmental friendliness.

since ethanol is a bad biofuel, what is the alternative? butanol. butanol is a direct replacement for gasoline (no vehicle, infrastructure, or customer modifications necessary at all), mixes freely with gasoline anywhere from 0-100%, and recent work at the UCLA has shown that it can be produced from the same basic materials that we are wasting on ethanol. i also like the idea of biodiesel from algae, but people who know a lot more on the subject than i say that it isn't practical yet because it is too difficult to keep more competitive wild strains of algae out of the high-yield algae culture.

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