Thursday, 22 January 2009

High-octane kelp

I'm torn.

On the one hand, I don't believe in using ethanol for fuel. It's really great for drinking, cleaning optics and sterilising skin, but fuel? No. Bad. It's harder to build an engine that can cope with the corrosive powers of ethanol than one that can cope with petrol or diesel. And where does it come from? Food stocks, mostly. So, no: We need better electricity production and usage, and we need biodiesel as the intermediate step, not bioethanol.

On the other hand, science like using seaweed to generate ethanol faster, simpler and cheaper (New Scientist) is really cool.

Seaweed grows faster. It's a better, and faster, carbon sink. I'm not sure about this "avoid taking up land altogether" - the ocean is important too, you know - but this is a great lateral-thinking approach which can lead, potentially (and somebody has to actually do this on a commercial scale, so don't cheer just yet) to higher-production ethanol that doesn't mess with food prices. And if I owned a vehicle I was prepared to put ethanol into, I'd cheer.

Instead, I'll just cheer the science being done.

Link to New Scientist article Invention: Biofuels from the ocean.

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