Development of Cellulosic Biofuels

Chris Somerville [Director of the EBI, UC Berkeley]
The earth receives approximately 4000 times as much energy from the sun each year as the total projected human energy use in 2050. Because plants can be deployed on a large scale to capture and store solar energy, I am interested in exploring the degree to which it may become possible to use photosynthesis for sustainable production of renewable carbon-neutral energy.

In considering this possibility, the Secretary of Energy of the US has called for the replacement of 30% of the liquid fuels used in the US with biofuels by 2030. I will outline some of the technical issues that must be addressed in order to understand if it is possible to reach this and related goals. I will also discuss some of the areas in which I envision significant technical advances may enable evolution of the biofuels industry.


Rick Wagoner and Vinod Khosla on Cellulosic Ethanol

From NAIAS...GM announces a partnership with Coskata, a company working on production of inexpensive cellulosic ethanol.


Green@Google: Vinod Khosla (May 13, 2009)

Vinod Khosla visits Google's Mountain View, CA headquarters to discuss renewable energy and the path to real impact. This event took place on April 22, 2009, as part of the Green@Google series.

Vinod Khosla will provide a look at renewable energy - where we are (and some of the exciting technologies out there) and where we need to be, as well as the key criteria necessary to differentiate real solutions from niche opportunities. His focus is on "Chindia" solutions - how to identify them, the issues with forecasting them, the importance of cost, scaling, and carbon trajectory, and the policy prescriptions that can help drive these.

Vinod Khosla was a co-founder of Daisy Systems and founding Chief Executive Officer of Sun Microsystems where he pioneered open systems and commercial RISC processors. Sun was funded by Kleiner Perkins and in 1986 Vinod switched sides and joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). In 2004, driven by the need for flexibility and a desire to be more experimental, to fund sometimes imprudent "science experiments," and to take on both "for profit" and for "social impact" ventures, he formed Khosla Ventures.

Khosla Ventures focuses on both traditional venture capital technology investments and clean technology ventures. Social ventures include affordable housing, microfinance among others.


Hemp for Ethanol in Kentucky, with Craig Lee

A descendent of hemp farmers and curator of the Kentucky Hemp Museum & Library, Craig Lee knows hemp is a superior crop choice for cellulosic ethanol production - the next wave in eco-friendly fuels. Hemp hurds contain 70% cellulose. Also, hemp seed can be used for biodiesel and for food products. Craig points out that using hemp for ethanol will leave corn and soybeans to their best uses as food. Hemp is easier on the soil and uses far less water than corn.

Any biomass or cellulose carbohydrate is superior to hydrocarbons (petrochemicals), because this year's living plants take up the carbon from last year's crop burning in your car. Also, there is no sulfur dioxide produced - no acid rain!

Here's an article on cellulosic ethanol.


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