“What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar”, US Vice President Thomas Marshall once remarked to the United States Senate during a long speech by Kansas Senator Joe Bristow on the subject of “what this country needs.”
Today, we could use a good five-cent renewable sugar, suitable for microorganisms that, from sucrose, make affordable renewable fuels and chemicals. The technologies of companies like Virent, Solazyme, LS9 and Amyris depend on access to affordable sugars at scale. Basically, if a technology has an office in Brazil, it generally has a sugar dependency or is aiming to solve the sugar dependency problems of others
In some cases, the companies down in Brazil are developing transformative crops — from which they believe affordable sugars can be harvested. Ceres is doing that with its next-generation sweet sorghum. Some companies are working on the extraction and fermentation of sugars from residues – as Codexis hopes with its cellulase enzymes and extracting its sugars from cane bagasse (residue). Still others —as with the afore-mentioned LS9, Amyris and Solazyme — ferment sugars into higher-value products including alcohols, alkenes, biofene, or triglycerides.
Ten cents would certainly do; even fifteen cents, in the reckoning of some, could get the job done. Right now, #11 sugar is trading at 19 cents a pound on NYMEX, and with corn trading at $7.17 per bushel, it’s not a time for acquiring low-cost corn sugars either.
We continue the Proterro story in today’s Digest, here:
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