agriculture * food * energy * environment
A lot of doom and gloom about the future. But for a every bleak forecast, science can come up with an positive alternative resulting from human ingenuity and our ever increasing mastery of our material existence. We just have to learn that science shouldn’t be proprietary. It should be shared so all peoples can benefit and we can end those problems ailing the world that result from human misdirection.
Motorists will be driving on the world’s first “green” tires within the next five years, scientists predicted here today, thanks to a revolutionary new technology that produces a key tire ingredient from renewable feedstocks rather than petroleum-derived feedstocks. The technology, described at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), stands to reduce the tire industry’s reliance on crude oil — seven gallons of which now go into each of the approximately one billion tires produced each year worldwide.
The new tires will be a “sweet” advance toward greener, more sustainable transportation in a quite literal sense, according to Joseph McAuliffe, Ph.D., who reported on the technology. The process can use sugars derived from sugar cane, corn, corn cobs, switchgrass or other biomass to produce the ingredient, a biochemical called isoprene, derived from renewable raw materials
“An intensive search has been underway for years for alternative sources of isoprene, in particular those from renewable resources such as biomass,” said McAuliffe. He is a staff scientist at Genencor, an industrial biotechnology company in Palo Alto, Calif. “One technical challenge has been the development of an efficient process for converting sugars into isoprene. One means by which we’re addressing this challenge is by using a fermentation process based on a modified bacterial strain that is designed to convert carbohydrate feedstocks into BioIsoprene™ product.”
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, have established a research collaboration to develop an integrated fermentation, recovery and purification system for producing BioIsoprene™ product from renewable raw materials. Genencor intends to commercialize the technology within the next five years.
In his ACS presentation, McAuliffe described how Genencor engineered bacteria to efficiently convert sugars to isoprene and how the smooth integration of fermentation and recovery processes promises to deliver a new route to this strategically important ingredient used to make synthetic rubber.
Goodyear and other large tire manufacturers use isoprene to produce synthetic rubber for use in tires to supplement use of natural rubber. Additionally, isoprene is used in a wide range of other industrial applications including, for example: use in other elastomers; block copolymers such as styrene-isoprene-styrene (SIS) used in hot melt adhesives in products such as diapers and feminine hygiene products; surgical gloves and other rubber-based products. Worldwide production of high purity isoprene derived today from petroleum-based feedstocks totals about 1.7 billion pounds. Goodyear, which manufactures 200 million tires annually, is one of the world’s largest users of isoprene. The firm plans to supplement its use of petroleum-based isoprene with BioIsoprene™ product.
“This is an enormous market,” McAuliffe said. “BioIsoprene™ product will serve as a renewable and cost-competitive alternative to isoprene. It’s a material that can drive new markets, so I believe those numbers highlighting global consumption would grow if new material became available.”
“We want to make biochemicals from renewable materials,” McAuliffe said, “partially as a hedge against rising crude oil prices and much more so because this approach moves us to a more sustainable future.”
In a story that recently appeared in Farm and Ranch Guide, Doug Berven, director of corporate affairs for POET LLC, said agriculture could have a bright future when it comes to ethanol production.
In discussing the supply of corn needed for the nation’s ethanol plants, according to the article, Berven said 86.5 million acres were planted to corn in 2007, and with the yield increases being predicted by several sources that acreage should be able to supply the growing demand for corn from the ethanol industry and still provide enough corn for the other needs.
“We had a 151 bushels per acre average in 2007 and we are up 15 bushels from that already in 2009,” he said. “By 2018 they are predicting an average yield of 218 bushels per acre, and in 2030, 300 bushels per acre.
–>“That gives us total corn production, from the same amount of land, of 13 billion bushels in 2007, 18 billion in 2018 and 26 billion in 2030,” he continued. “Allocating a 40 percent increase in the use of corn during that time for everything except ethanol, leaves 428 percent more corn for ethanol production, or enough for 24 billion gallons in 2018 and almost 50 billion gallons in 2030.”
And science is finding new ways to increase corn production that will make those predictions come true.
But despite the ever increasing yields from corn production, bad weather can easily turn surplus into shortage. The following story talks about the impact of weather on the corn industry. This is a very real concern, especially when you consider what impact global warming will have on crop production.
Grocery shoppers face hefty price increases if bad weather withers a U.S. corn crop that is now tethered to grain-intensive renewable fuel mandates, a new University of Illinois study warns.
A corn shortage, coupled with surging demand to meet government-ordered ethanol standards, could push cash prices to $7 a bushel, the study found, squeezing livestock producers and driving up prices for meat, milk, eggs and other farm staples.
Economists Darrel Good and Scott Irwin say federal policymakers need to forge solutions now to cushion the blow of a shortfall that history shows is a matter of when and how severe, not if.
“We believe everybody will be better off with a reasoned, well thought-out response if a crisis would occur rather than rushed, short-term solutions as the crop is burning up,” Irwin said.
Irwin and Good, professors of agricultural and consumer economics, analyzed weather and harvest records in key corn-growing states, projecting U.S. yields based on the five best and worst growing seasons since 1960.
The study found that average yields could range from 135.5 bushels per acre with bad weather to 172.5 bushels per acre in peak growing conditions, compared with a trend yield of 156.7 bushels per acre forecast for 2010. If weather turns sour in 2010, for example, the nation would harvest about 10.9 billion bushels of corn, down more than 2.1 billion bushels from last year’s record crop, according to the study.
The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) has released its 2010 production forecast for ethanol and the future continues to look positive for growth in the industry. Here’s the good news from the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, this year ethanol, worldwide, will replace 370 million barrels of oil. According to the U.S. Energy Information Service, in 2008, the U.S. used 19.4 million barrels of petroleum daily. So, total world projected ethanol production in 2010 would replace about 20 days of petroleum use in the U.S. In the U.S., we will produce about 286 million barrels (42 gallons equals a barrel of oil) of ethanol in 2010. (U.S. daily production of petroleum, based on 2008 data, was 6.7 million barrel.) So total U.S. ethanol production will replace little more than 14 days of petroleum use. We are winning the battle in finding ways to replace petroleum, but we still have a long ways to go. Along with diversifying our energy mix in this country, the best way to use less petroleum is to design and build more efficient technology that uses less petroleum and all kinds of other energy. In 2008, EIA reported that U.S. oil consumption for transportation was 71 percent. In 2008, the EIA said U.S. gasoline use was 378 million gallons per day. If we developed a reasonable goal of reducing U.S. oil consumption for transportation to 50 percent through a combination of more fuel efficient technology and diversifying our energy mix, it would create a tremendous amount of wealth in our country. In 2008, EIA reported that the U.S. imported 1.8 million barrels of petroleum per day. Oil prices on Thursday were $81 per barrel. That $146 million we will spend importing oil on Thursday. That contributes to our negative balance of trade, which is in turn contributes negatively to this country’s GDP. The way back to economy recovery will be partly lowering the cost of doing business and one way to do it lowering energy costs. RKP
Total fuel ethanol production for 2009 was 73.9 billion litres according to data assembled by F.O. Licht. The GRFA predicts global production will reach 85.9 billion litres in 2010 – growing by 16.2 per cent from 2009 production. This year ethanol production will displace the need for 370 million equivalent barrels of oil globally.
The United States is still the world leader in ethanol manufacturing with more than 45 billion litres of ethanol production projected for this year. At the other end of the spectrum, many developing countries including Nigeria and Malawi are turning to ethanol to boost their economies and secure their future energy needs.
When new technology is first introduced, there’s always a little patience required before all the bugs are worked out. Ethanol isn’t any different. This isn’t a new technology, but its development stage into a major energy producer was new. Each year a new layer of technology comes along to make it a more efficient operation. The process continues until the next big technology comes unto the scene. As ethanol production becomes more efficient, it’s also doing its primary job of diversify this country’s energy mix. That’s the real success story.
Renewable Energy World.com reports that Poet plans to decrease water use in the production of ethanol by 22 percent over the next five years in the first goal of its sustainability initiative, Ingreenuity. If successful, it will cut the company’s water used per gallon of ethanol from an average of 3 gallons to 2.33, an annual water savings of one billion gallons.
In 2009, Poet plants used an average of three gallons of water per gallon of ethanol, which is an 80 percent decrease from when the company first produced ethanol in 1988.
PoetCEO Jeff Broin said the company is committed to producing ethanol as sustainably as possible and minimizing its impact on natural resources.
“Fresh water is a precious natural resource that we do our utmost to conserve,” Broin said. “We have seen tremendous efficiency gains in the 22 years I’ve been in this business, but we can and will continue to do better.”