At first glance, cows don't seem to be all that technologically advanced. However, they've got a trick up their, er, sleeve, that so far we humans haven't been able to duplicate.
Cows can turn cellulose (grasses) into sugars without needing a mutli-million dollar facility. If we had that power, our bio-fuel problems would be over, and corn-based bio-fuel would no longer be needed.
Professor Mark Holtzapple of Texas A&M analyzed how a cowâ€™s stomach(s) work to help design a process for making ethanol and many other alcohols from cellulosic materials. The result is the MixAlco process where almost any organic material can be converted to high energy biofuels.
This process can be used to convert waste materials to provide almost all of our automotive energy needs. He specifically shows how much waste we make â€“ agricultural, municipal and sewage and how much ethanol can be derived from each of these feedstocks.
using these waste streams as the fuel feed stock, the MixAlco process can provide
much of our fuel needs without displacing valuable crop lands or using high
energy crops such as corn.
Because they have low capital costs and relatively simple operation, the MixAlco pretreatment and fermentation steps may be carried out on-location at sewage treatment plants or municipal landfills. Several studies have shown that MixAlco is capable of economically converting both dairy manure and chipped yard waste into alcohol.
We need to push for cellulosic ethanol as an alternative to both gasoline and to corn based ethanol. Just today the price of corn hit a ten year high of $4.31 per bushel, roughly twice what it cost last year. This is creating hunger and economic chaos in Central America where corn is a staple of their diet.
Professor Mark Holtzapple,
holder of many patents on the MixAlco process makes a great presentation at Texas
A&M for their distinguished lecture series.