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New Source for Gasoline: Wood?

New Source for Gasoline: Wood?

The federal government has offered one billion dollars in the form of a loan to a Texas company that could build several factories to turn wood chips into a substitute for petroleum-based gasoline and oil. The main advantage appears to be a 70 percent reduction in climate change emissions. Additionally, it does not require the same kinds of extraction methods petroleum does, like offshore and land-based drilling. Another advantage is that it can be blended with existing fuels to reduce their emissions and will work in currently used vehicles, with no modifications. Their fuel can be mixed with conventional gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel. A biofuel like ethanol requires vehicles with engines that can burn it. Renewable crude can also be distributed using the current network of gas stations people are already using, so no modifications or new infrastructure needs to be added.

In August the same company, Kior, Inc. received an interest-free loan from the government for $75 million to build five conversion facilities in Mississippi. One thousand jobs are expected to be created by the construction and running of the biofuel factories.

“This partnership with the State of Mississippi will help us to rapidly scale our technology while creating quality jobs and spurring economic development in the State. We’re excited about making a meaningful and near-term contribution to easing our country’s dependence on foreign oil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing a boost to rural economies,” said Kior, Inc. CEO Fred Cannon in August. (Source:

The company heats wood chips in a chamber, and then applies catalysts in the presence of oxygen which creates liquids and gases that can be converted to fuel. They have worked on some pilot facilities, but so far have not reached a production level on an large-scale industrial level. Just 15 barrels a day have been produced at their Houston facility. Daily motor consumption of gasoline in the United States is almost nine million barrels.

The two main goals of the biofuel production are reducing climate change emissions and dependence on foreign oil. If the loan goes through, it would be the largest in the bioenergy sector ever in the United States.

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6:56PM PDT on May 18, 2011

Kill our trees and you will be like a fish without water.

6:55PM PDT on May 18, 2011

Sounds like a steam engine idea to me and thinning out the forest lands for fuel. Don't think so.

12:09PM PST on Mar 9, 2011

Green building uses innovative heating system -

8:55PM PST on Mar 6, 2011

Idea must free of cutting trees to prevent global warming.Thanks for the post.

8:34PM PST on Feb 13, 2011

Where are the wood chips coming from? Cutting down trees will not clean up our air. We need our trees. That is obvious. Why? Why? Why?

8:00AM PST on Feb 13, 2011

dangerous idea...stop it...

8:22PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

And absolutely bad bad bad idea. Right up there with useing corn [food] for fuel.

5:59PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Um....exactly who's federal gov't is sanctioning this insane idea?? I live in Canada and I happen to like the trees. It seems to me that, considering the current outrageous consumption of gasoline, the trees would disappear rather quickly. Unbelievable the money that the gov't hands out on a whim!!

10:06PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

Let me get this straight they are getting $75,000,000. up to a $1,000,000,000.00 to build 5 plants that will convert wood chips into fuel. WOW I did not think we had that many wood chips. DUH! What are they going to use when they run out of the wood chips?? Maybe trees? The really sad part is that someone in the Federal Govt. thought that this was a good idea. From 15 barrels to 9 million barrels a day in 1 plant and 5 more plants in the future. Whoopeee. Unless I am wrong 5X15=75 Where are the other 8,999,925 barrels A DAY going to come from??

6:30PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

Interesting discussion! I do worry about always looking for ways to make oil out of other things, instead of other alternatives (say electric cars where the electricity comes from solar).

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