Cellulosic ethanol looks like the magic bullet for biofuels. We could make it out of corn stalks and feed the ears to people and cows instead of SUVs. Better yet, we could skip corn (which takes an awful lot of fertilizer and water to grow) and get cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and other plants that come popping out of the prairie naturally.
The problem: it's a lot harder to break down cellulose than corn (don't know what I mean? go chew on a corn stalk). We need to break that cellulosic material in sugars, then turn bacteria loose to convert the sugar to ethanol.
An eager reader submits an article this morning contending that we might our microbial friends to more elemental use: use bacteria in an electrolytic process that makes hydrogen.
Now some say that's no better: The feds are working on hydrogen, but building the infrastructure for a hydrogen economy may take as long as making cellulosic ethanol work, if not longer.
But the researchers in my reader's submission say nuts to that (that's the spirit!): mix it with natural gas, burn it in your natural gas vehicle—boom! (not literally, we hope) The hydrogen makes the natural gas burn cleaner.
Just some science for you to ponder over your Saturday breakfast!
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