Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Friday, September 29, 2006

ETHANOL UPDATE

I stand corrected in regard to ownership of ethanol plants in Minnesota. A recent report from the Linder Farm Network states that 12 of the almost 20 plants in the state enjoy cooperative farmer ownership. In fact, the news line states that the ownership structure has been so positive; it is being referred to as the "Minnesota Model." More Stations: Additional information indicated that as of September 25, 291 E85 sites are operating. Statewide, E85 stations are selling an average of more than 8,500 gallons each month. The average metro station is now selling about 12,300 gallons of E85 per month, while the average rural station sells about 6,660 gallons per month. E85 averaged 49 cents per gallon LESS than the average price of 87-octane gasoline ($2.98 vs. $2.49) in August.
Less Mileage: Note: another advantage of locally produced fuels is shortened delivery of raw products. Since Minnesota is at the end of the line in regard to rail transportation; most of our commodities are trucked to port terminals such as those at Savage, Minnesota (port on the Minnesota River). Recently the ethanol plant in Lake Crystal broke a record receiving 159 semi loads of corn in one day. That is at least 100 semis that were not traveling Mn. Hwy 169 to Savage.
The Wonderful World of Chemistry!
Scientists have their work cut out for them in the development of cellulosic ethanol. The following paragraph, taken from the Linder Farm Network newsletter explains the process. CELLULOSIC ETHANOL --The first tricky step is breaking down two structural materials in the cell walls of plants - cellulose and hemicellulose - into sugar. This is usually done with enzymes excreted by genetically modified descendants of a fungus called Trichoderma reesei, which plagued the U.S. Army during World War II by causing tents and clothing to rot in South Pacific jungles.The enzymes break the cellulose into glucose, which is the same as the sugar in the kernels' starch.. Common yeast can ferment that into ethanol. But hemicellulose breaks down into a form of sugar - xylose - that yeast won't touch.To get around that, DuPont is relying on a bacterium, Zymomonas mobilis, that lives in the sap of agave plants - the source of tequila - and has been genetically modified to consume both forms of sugar.The challenge now facing molecular biologists at DuPont is to further alter the metabolism of the microbe so it can withstand the acetic acid that builds up during fermentation, with the goal of converting all of the sugars into ethanol.One acre's worth of harvested corn kernels can be converted into 432 gallons of ethanol, DuPont said. But if just half of the stalks and leaves left behind after the corn is harvested could also be turned into ethanol, the yield could be boosted by 36 percent to 586 gallons, according to DuPont researchers.

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