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Biorefining offers permanent solution to high oil prices

Antigovernment demonstrations in Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Yemen and elsewhere are pushing up oil prices, mostly out of fear and speculation that global supply and refining capacity may be at risk.
By Ron Kotrba | February 24, 2011

Antigovernment demonstrations in Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Yemen and elsewhere are pushing up oil prices, mostly out of fear and speculation that global supply and refining capacity may be at risk.

It is sad to say, but high oil prices is exactly what the U.S. and the biorefining industry—and the Earth itself quite frankly—needs. It seems like the only time any real progress in energy independence is made in the U.S. is when oil prices rise.

As oil prices go up, once-costly alternatives like commercial methyl ester biodiesel or yet-to-be commercial cellulosic ethanol (after all, we have 1.3 billion annual tons of biomass capable of use in the U.S., right?) find new momentum in the public sphere.

Someone asked me, who the heck is going to pay $10 a gallon for cellulosic ethanol when it’s the same physical end product as corn ethanol, which you can get for a quarter of the cost or less?

Well, people paying $15 for a gallon of gas would.

But once oil prices drop, the American public tends to go back to the same old mentality and the momentum for renewables is lost, at least highly curbed, and the cycle must start over again.

Let’s break that cycle. Obama’s drive to cut oil subsidies surely won’t make oil any cheaper. Maybe that is a starting point. After all, banking on bloodshed and civil unrest to drive up oil prices, making advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals cost-competitive, is not good policy. 

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