Sweet, Sweet Diesel: Sugar Can Be Used to Create Fuel

Picture: Lauri Andler (CC)

Looks like we may soon look to sugar as a new fuel source. Think it’ll make your car hyper, too?

Via e! Science News:

A long-abandoned fermentation process once used to turn starch into explosives can be used to produce renewable diesel fuel to replace the fossil fuels now used in transportation, University of California, Berkeley, scientists have discovered. Campus chemists and chemical engineers teamed up to produce diesel fuel from the products of a bacterial fermentation discovered nearly 100 years ago by the first president of Israel, chemist Chaim Weizmann. The retooled process produces a mix of products that contain more energy per gallon than ethanol that is used today in transportation fuels and could be commercialized within 5-10 years.

While the fuel’s cost is still higher than diesel or gasoline made from fossil fuels, the scientists said the process would drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, one of the major contributors to global climate change.

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  • alizardx

    Whether this is good or bad for the environment depends on how the sugar is grown. Biofuel grown via conventional mechanical agricultural techniques ordinarily requires sufficient fossil fuel inputs to make it’s EROEI marginal (see corn ethanol, which IMO, is greenwashing) but if they’re making diesel, that can go straight into most ag machinery, leaving fossil fuel derived fertilizers and land clearing practices (e.g. slash and burn) as possible problems.

  • InfvoCuernos

    ya, but I hear it’ll rot your grill if you aren’t careful.

    • Matt Staggs

      Well played, sir.

      • kowalityjesus

        Matt, I hate to be rude, but I have been trying to submit an article for close to a week. For some reason it says to contact the administrator by some other method, which I am doing.

  • http://shalilayo.net/ Justin Mitchell

    So they think we have a problem with losing topsoil to the oceans, and now they have come up with a way to convert topsoil mulch into a gas that will disappear into the atmosphere.

  • Anarchy Pony

    The EROEI on pretty much all biofuels is a joke. Not a saving grace for the sputtering industrial economy.

    • alizardx

      I want to see a sewage to biodiesel process work.

      • Anarchy Pony

        Rather see sewage made into fertilizer.

        • alizardx

          Heavy metal contamiinants, pharmaceuticals, BPA. Though if there’s some way to deal with this in the future, turning it into carbon black as a soil stabilizer might be interesting, particularly if an industrial-scale process to get all the way to terra prieta can be found. What I like about sewage biofuel is that complex organic compounds are unlikely to survive the inside of a combustion chamber, sewage to soil stabilizer is for the long run.

          BTW, decent biofuel EROEI can be done, but only if some sort of certification authority is developed to ensure that ONLY biofuel with a decent EROEI is approved for tax credits and subsidies. This gets the greenwashing players out of the market, e.g. it would kill corn ethanol and most palm oil.

          To keep the industrial / ag economy going while batteries with adequate energy storage for ag and transportation work their way out of the lab (hoping for carbon nanotube ultracap tech), adequate biofuels MUST work their way into the mass market. At least if you plan to keep eating.

    • kowalityjesus

      thank you. save topsoil: cut corn subsidies and FUCK biofuels.

  • kowalityjesus

    Efficiency is #1 priority. “Don’t be bio-fooled: farms are for food, not fuel”

  • BuzzCoastin

    at this moment is time
    the landfills and sewage produce enough more than methane to power the US & then some
    London once powered it’s gaslights with methane from city sewage
    producing methane from organic waste is a renewable process
    with an abundant renewable source of fuel: organic waste & feces
    and a byproduct of organic fertilizer
    and a process used successfully for thousands of years
    which we are only recently relearning

    when oil was cheep & abundant
    this wasn’t worth shit
    now shit could save the world