"A Fiber of Hope: Missouri Plant Wants To Make Ethanol in a New Way"

"ST. JOSEPH -- This country’s battle to curb oil imports is being plotted in high-tech laboratories and elite universities hunting for breakthroughs in alternative fuels.

But the frontlines in the effort to bring such fuels to market can be found in places like a working-class neighborhood in this river town, not far from where Pony Express riders saddled up to journey west.

Here in a brick and cinder-block building sit two rows of giant stainless steel kettles and equipment that are part of a $31 million experiment. The goal: Instead of using corn to make ethanol, see if it’s feasible to use cellulosic fiber, particularly six-foot tall stalks of switchgrass.

The St. Joseph cellulosic pilot plant is nearing completion. After testing over the summer, it will eventually produce about 250,000 gallons of ethanol a year. That’s enough to uncover any problems before larger commercial operations attempt to make billions of gallons more."

Steve Everly And Scott Canon report for the Kansas City Star April 9, 2011.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011