These are days you'll remember: Digest readers keep up manic pace of policy and technology innovation

June 11, 2010 |

All this week, the Digest has been looking at the theme of transformation, primarily via the 7,500 votes that have been cast so far in the 2010 Transformative Technologies ballot by Biofuels Digest subscribers.

Digest subscribers are more than just voters and analysts – they are do-ers who walk the walk. Or lately, run the run. If not rocket the rocket.

We were delighted to see Digest reader Jay Keasling receiving an award for his achievements in synthetic biology at the International Association for Plant Biotechnology’s 12th World Congress, as he told delegates that artemisinic acid, via the commercial production of synthetic artemisinin (used to treat malaria), is “a hydrocarbon that could be an ideal jet or diesel fuel. The beauty of synthetic biology is once you have your chassis, you just switch a few genes out and you can produce fuel.”

We were also very happy to hear from our many subscribers at Novozymes, who relayed the news that they have launch their new enzyme, Spirizyme Excel. It converts more starch in corn, wheat, and other feedstocks into sugars which can be fermented to ethanol, thereby allowing producers to increase yields by more than one percent.

Compared to other available solutions, a typical ethanol plant can gain $1 million or more per year using the enzyme, say our friends from Denmark. Unlike other starch-converting enzymes, Spirizyme Excel breaks down the most difficult starch fractions in the feedstock to maximize biofuel production yields.  The greater the starch conversion, the higher the output of ethanol.

“The biofuel industry has experienced tremendous technology improvements over the past years,” says . “Increased efficiency in crop production, ethanol conversion, and co-product use means that today ethanol made from corn can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 70 percent compared to gasoline,” advises Poul Ruben Andersen, Biofuel Marketing Director at the company.

We can’t wait to see what Genencor comes up with next week in its hotly-awaited response.

Finally, we were delighted to see that Digest subscriber Chad Holliday (former Dupont chairman and now chairman of the Bank of America), joining a number of other corporate titans at the American Energy Innovation Board, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Kleiner Perkin’s John Doerr, Xerox chief Ursula Burns and GE chief Jeff Immelt, in outlining five key recommendations for the government’s role in accelerating energy innovation with their “Business Plan for America’s Future.”

“The energy business requires investments of capital at a scale that is beyond the risk threshold of most private-sector investors,” the Council advised. “This high level of risk, when combined with existing market structures, limits the rate of energy equipment turnover. A slow turnover rate exacerbates the historic dearth of investments in new ideas, creating a vicious cycle of status quo behavior. The government must therefore act to spur investments in energy innovation and mitigate risk for large-scale energy projects. By heeding the following five recommendations, we feel the government can unleash the nation’s technology potential.”

The Council’s recommendations:

1. Create an independent national energy strategy board.

2. Invest $16 billion per year in clean energy innovation.

3. Create Centers of Excellence with strong domain expertise.

4. Fund ARPA-E at $1 billion per year.

5. Establish and fund a New Energy Challenge Program to build large-scale pilot projects.

“In the defense, health, agriculture, and information technology industries, this country has made a deliberate choice to use intelligent federal investments to unleash profound innovation,” the Council added. “As a result, the country leads in all those realms. In energy, however, the United States has failed the grade, and is paying a heavy price for that failure. We are optimistic about the potential for dramatic change in the energy realm. To seize this opportunity, America must put aside partisan interests and make a strong, bold commitment.”

Amen.

As we look this week and next at the theme of Transformation in technology and policy, we certainly call on our many readers on Capitol Hill, on both sides of the aisle, to set aside their partisan differences and work together towards the achievement of the Council’s well-said, well-thought goals.

Just as we commend all our readers for all the innovations they are announcing on a daily basis. We have a boatload of product ad policy announcements to relay over in the next eight days as we finish out the Transformative Technologies voting. If you haven’t already voted, stay tuned as we look at the astonishing rise of biobutanol early next week, and take a close look at “E10, E12 or E15?” a few days later.

We sit in our easy chairs at the Digest, watching the frenetic pace of your innovation with a sense of continuing astonishment. Our message to you: though you may not know it now: the summer of your efforts is upon us, the growing is everywhere to be seen, the harvest awaits.

As 10,000 Maniacs put it a few years ago:

“These are the days
These are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this.”

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