One of the biggest complaints about biofuel is that food is turned into fuel while people go hungry. Price hikes for staples have been blamed on ethanol production, especially subsidized ethanol production. Ethanol is usually made from sugarcane, corn, and beets. Grapes find their way into fuel tanks instead of wine glasses, rice is often driven instead of eaten. Woodscraps and agricultural residue would be less of a moral and financial hazard if converted into fuel. However, it proved resistant against yeasts. Today, Toyota took reporters to a lab in Aichi and showed off a yeast that wood-scraps, dead leaves, straw etc find highly irresistible.
That genetically altered yeast will happily turn otherwise inedible plants and fibers into ethanol. That yeast has such a great appetite for scrap that Toyota hopes to soon “achieve production-cost parity with other liquid fuels such as gasoline.” The yeast on steroids is thought to be ready for deployment by 2020 and should help reduce CO2 emissions while driving.
My forebears were German brewers, and my Weihenstephan-trained father taught me that CO2 is a byproduct of fermentation (it’s the fizz in beer), but that’s another story. In the meantime, Toyota should rush this stuff to America, it will find a ready market here.