Scientists have discovered a new method for converting plant matter into biofuel. Ars Technica reports:
[R]esearchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison have figured out a chemical treatment that, given a bit of time, can completely dissolve any plant matter including wood. The end result is a solution containing mostly sugars, along with a few other organic molecules—some of which can be shunted off to synthesize the key ingredient of the chemical treatment itself.
These sugars can then be converted in to ethanol. The upside is that we could more easily convert non-food crops—even trees—into biofuel, and use more of our corn crops for food. Biofuel feedstocks could be increasingly grown on marginal land, leaving the better tracts to food crops. That would help undo America’s biofuels boondoggle, and could help bring down global food prices.Like many of these discoveries, this new process isn’t ready to compete with corn-based ethanol on cost, but that could change. This kind of research can help right our very wrong biofuels policy, and that’s worth recognition.