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Cellulosic Ethanol (Terra Futura)

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Cellulosic ethanol was a biofuel made from wood, grass, or the inedible parts of plants. Just call it Instant Biodiesel.

(Note: The background section of this page uses most of the same words as Terra Futura's page on biomass fuels to save time.)

Background

Before there was coal, there was wood. Caveman used wood for their fires. To get wood, they had to cut trees. Wood was also used to build houses, boats, and carts. The invention of the wheel by the Sumerians would not have been possible without wood. Wood was one the most common fuels to light a home, too. A lot of wood was cut to fuel fires. Axes became more sophisticated, too. However, wood could not last forever, so a new fuel source had to be found. That was where coal came in.

In the 1700s, Britain was the biggest miner of coal in Europe and the world. Britain started using the steam engine to power its factories. With very little wood in Britain, coal would work better. Coal was used to power the steam engine. Soon, the steam engine went beyond the factory. As industry spread throughout Europe, the steam engine appeared in ships and in trains. In the 1900s, battleships and power plants started using steam turbines which used coal to heat water into steam to turn a turbine which turned a generator. Even as the steam engine became obsolete, coal continued to be used for electricity. There was one problem. The burning of coal was a contributor to global warming. The solution was clean coal technology. In September 2008, in Germany, the Swedish company Vattenfall built a power plant that ran on clean coal. The purpose of the technology was to eliminate the emissions that were normally created by burning coal. Clean coal would help clean the environment. However, there was another fossil fuel that was causing more trouble than coal: Petroleum.

With the invention of the internal combustion engine in 1860, petroleum started to become an important fuel throughout the West. In the early 1900s, the discovery of vast petroleum reserves throughout Texas finally brought petroleum into the mainstream. It fueled cars, trains, and airplanes. By the mid-1950s, petroleum had become the main source of fuel throughout the world. That did not mean there were hardships. The biggest oil producer was Saudi Arabia, and, in 1973, because of America's support of Israel, Saudi Arabia cut off oil supplies. This stopped eventually, but the cost was clear. By the early 21st century, it became clear that the oil supply was dwindling and carbon emissions from burning oil were contributing to global warming. Another fossil fuel was there to replace it in that instance: Natural Gas.

Natural gas was most commonly found in shale. The most well-known deposit was the Barnett shale. It was once thought that getting natural gas out of the Barnett Shale was impossible. Then, in the 1980s, scientists perfected horizontal drilling techniques to get the natural gas of the Barnett Shale. It was then the natural gas really took off. During the early 21st century, natural gas replaced diesel in buses. This reduced the amount of carbon emissions being produced. By the mid-21st century, natural gas was the most common fossil fuel in use. However, it shared its spot with other cleaner fuels. One notable example was biofuels.

In the early 21st century, biomass fuels started to replace petroleum in cars and trains. The most common was ethanol. Ethanol was being mixed with petroleum in cars. Flex-Fuel Vehicles also had the option of running on E85 ethanol fuel. In Brazil, ethanol had completely overtaken. At the same time, diesel locomotives started using biodiesel. This reduced emissions significantly. Traditional biofuels were controversial because they were made from food. Scientists decided to create a new form of biofuel: Cellulosic Ethanol.

Description

Tech Level: 10-11

Cellulosic ethanol was a biofuel pioneered by Jay Keasling who was best known for his work in synthetic life. One of his projects involved biofuels. Keasling engineering a bacteria that create biofuels from switch grass. At the Joint BioEnergy Institute, the work on creating biofuels from switch grass was doing well. This synthetic E. coli was being used to create biofuels from switch grass. Not only that, but this cellulosic ethanol was already good to go as diesel in trucks. No need for refinement. There was one problem. Cellulosic ethanol was expensive. The solution to the problem was vertical farming. Keasling made a deal with the Jewish National Fund in Israel to use a vertical farm in Israel for the switch grass that was needed. The price of cellulosic ethanol went. Not only that, but much environmental was reduced. Cellulosic ethanol was not the only biofuel to replace conventional biofuels. There was also algae fuel.

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