Google invests in California mobile biofuel refinery

CoolPlanetBiofuels has received $20 million in funding from Google Ventures and other venture capital funds. The Camarillo-based business is developing innovative mobile refineries that turn biomass, agricultural leftovers, and wood processing byproducts into useful biofuel.

This is quite separate from biofuel originating from corn, which has deservedly come under attack for being expensive, unworkable, environmentally unfriendly, and quite possibly lethal as well. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons says biofuel from land formerly used for crops will lead to higher food prices which in turn condemns those in Third World countries to “chronic hunger,” poverty, and an increased death rate. In other words, biofuel from farmland leads directly to people dying from starvation and malnutrition. A rise in food prices here in the US might be unnoticeable to many, but to a family in the Third World making $1.50 a day, it can be devastating.

Furthermore, to create biofuel from corn, the corn has to be trucked long distances to the refineries, something which increases costs as well as environmental impacts. It’s difficult to see how corn biofuel benefits anyone except agribusiness which receives large subsidies for it.

However, the approach taken by CoolPlanetBiofuels has none of those drawbacks. They produce the biofuel from waste at processing plants, not from crops grown on arable land. Nothing needs to be trucked. Instead, the refineries go to where the waste products are. Thus, instead of trucking the waste to a landfill or burning it, it becomes an income stream. Everyone wins. The processing plant company has turned an expense (disposing of the waste) into profit.

Initially, the mobile refineries will produce an additive that will help gasoline refineries meet California’s stringent new low-carbon standards. They then plan to make biofuel that can run directly in engines, with a test one million gallon per year refinery coming soon. Amazingly, they also say they can sequester carbon in the process and use it as soil enhancer for crops or even as a coal substitute. Such a process is at least carbon-neutral and may even provide carbon sequestration, which makes it even more environmentally friendly than wind and solar power.

Turning waste into useful products is not only friendly to the environment because it lessens what is dumped into landfills or burned, it also provides income for those with the waste. The key here is what CoolPlanetBioFuels is doing. They are bringing the refinery to where the waste is, and no cropland is used in this process.

(crossposted from CAIVN)


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