General Motors has announced a partnership with Coskata, Inc. to develop and promote Coskata's next-generation ethanol production technology. Coskata has a patented process and proprietary microorganisms that will enable them to produce cellulosic ethanol for approximately US$1.00 (which would translate to retail fuel prices $0.50 to $1.00 less than current prices).
GM is investing in Coskata but is not taking an ownership stake in the company. Nor is GM looking to begin selling GM-branded fuel. However, as part of their program to embrace a range of fuels, GM is already involved in the promotion and development of E85 fueling stations across the country, and the alliance between GM and Coskata will help both companies while making E85 a more readily available fuel.
Unlike many other current sources for ethanol production, Coskata is not a corn-based system. Instead, the Coskata process uses anaerobic microbes to produce ethanol (and only ethanol, unlike some other biological methods that produce a range of alcohols that require more intensive distillation and processing in order to produce a useful fuel).
Coskata will be able to produce ethanol from a range of feedstocks, including hay, straw, and corn stover (the stalks, cobs, and other inedible, non-food parts of corn), wood chips, and even more diverse sources such as old tires and municipal waste.
Coskata and GM will be working together to test fuel from the Coskata pilot plant in GM vehicles and to develop the ethanol fuel market, as well as exploring using GM manufacturing plant waste to produce ethanol and help GM reach its goal of zero landfill use.
Note: GM paid for my travel to attend a background briefing about this program.
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