Changing corn ethanol plants into butanol plants

A news item that appeared on the web site

The Colorado company Gevo has purchased a Minnesota corn ethanol plant and intends to convert it into a butanol plant.  Butanol, in addition to having a higher fuel value per unit volume than ethanol, has the potential to serve both as a carbon sink and has the ability to be used as a raw material in the production of plastics and rubber products.  (NYT Green Blog post)
Our take:
No one should be married to a particular form of value-added product — to the greatest extent possible, we should let demand set what use commodity corn is put to. While butonal is in transition from the laboratory bench to the full-scale commercial operation, we’ll keep putting our bets on ethanol.

The point for us is to add value in a way that encourages local ownership of energy, or other marketable materials, and that builds strength and prosperity for local farm operations. It’s been demonstrated by numerous economic models that revenues to farms stay in a community longer and have a greater multiplier effect in the community than profits generated by businesses and ownership structures that are not as connected to the local community.

If local, farmer ownership can be done with butanol production, we say more power to them. We believe the “biorefinery” concept will eventually operate in a very broad market space, competing with and even replacing petroleum-based production of plastics, clothing fibers and other materials.

As oil becomes more expensive, the biorefinery concept inches closer to reality. It will result in a more environmentally sound approach to providing the materials we all need in everyday life, while bringing even greater vitality to America’s farm producing communities.


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