Monday, January 30, 2006

Ethanol bio-fuel in NZ

Up go the oil prices... cue the bio-fuel company stage left.
Can anyone spell 'wall of wood'? (for my overseas readers, NZ had a lot of mum-and-dad investment in trees a couple decades ago with suitably optimistic price forecasts. Now however, there's a $hitload of wood ready for processing and what do you know? Prices aren't what they thought they'd be - hence a wall of wood on the horizon. It's nostalgic in a way, we used to have a mountain of butter, a bale full of wool and indications of a lake of wine developing. Nice to know we're consistent).

You may be surprised by my cynacism, but i am actually in favour on bio-fuels but on the proviso that they pay their own way. Dig a little deeper into most bio-fuel projects and you'll see some sort of farming subsidy masquerading as alternative fuel production.
As far as i'm aware, breaking down the lignin (not surprisingly, a very tough polymer used by trees to, you know, let them grow really, really tall) takes a bucket load of heat, normally sourced from fossil fuels. There are a number of bio-enzymatic candidates in the pipeline that are starting to show promise but i doubt a Taupo company with a couple years experience is part of the list. Taupo is however a geothermally active region, they could get their heat for free, that'd be a nice bit of synergy.
NZ Herald science reporting: 2/10 (again, mainly for grammatical correctness rather than any sort of knowledge on the subject)

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