An NYT article discusses the ethanol movement...
“Producing cellulosic ethanol is clearly more difficult than we thought in the 1990s,” said Dan W. Reicher, who was assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy at the time of the first ceremony and who spoke here then.
To be sure, swarms of innovators, venture capitalists and government officials are optimistic. Over the last year, money has begun to pour in from all corners — government, private foundations, venture capitalists and Wall Street — to sort out the myriad production problems preventing cellulosic ethanol from becoming a reality. And recent advances in gene sequencing have raised hopes for a breakthrough in mass producing the enzymes needed to do the work.
If making the technology work to produce ethanol from cellulose was important in the 1990s, it is even more critical now. Because of growing concerns about oil imports and climate change, Mr. Reicher said, “it is essential that we figure this out, and fast.”
Mounting concerns over excessive demands for corn as both food and fuel only add to the urgency. In January, President Bush set a goal of producing 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels, probably mostly ethanol, by 2017.
But the more than six billion gallons of ethanol that will be produced this year have already helped push corn to its highest price in years, raising the cost of everything from tortillas to chicken feed. Poor people in Mexico have protested against the higher prices, and now China and India are starting to suffer from food inflation.
So why has no one figured out a way to make ethanol from materials like the sugar cane wastes engineers are working with here?