A new study by the University of British Columbia predicts that wood will become a competitive commercial source for fuel by 2020. Although wood-based bio fuels are considered more sustainable than corn, they are not widely used due to high costs. Ethanol produced from corn is more commonly used and can be found mixed in gasoline. This study aims to highlight new research that will transform the bio fuel industry from using corn ethanol to wood-based cellulosic ethanol for energy.
There are many reasons why scientists desire to push towards commercial wood-based biofuels. One is that they are considered to be more environmental friendly than corn ethanol. Not only do wood-based biofuels emit fewer green house gasses, they require less water for production. Furthermore, wood-based fuels don’t compromise with our food source. Despite the numerous positive aspects of using wood-based ethanol, the costs of production are still higher than corn ethanol.
Research shows that the cost of wood-based ethanol can be greatly reduced by cutting costs of facilities, equipment and enzymes. Essentially, as the demand for bio fuels grows, production costs will drop. Income generated by co-products of bio fuel, such as electricity, can also help reduce costs.
Wood-based ethanol still has many obstacles to overcome. Enzymes, which are used to break down wood, are a major hurdle today in reducing cost of cellulosic ethanol. As the bio fuel industry expands, researchers are certain that they will stumble upon a discovery that will help reduce the cost of enzymes. With the government’s support by funding research, scientists hope that their prediction for the future of bio fuels will become reality.
Discussion Question: What are some specific plants and other sources that produce wood-based ethanol?
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