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Turning Trash into Treasure

In theory, using cellulosic biomass makes a lot of sense. Take what would otherwise be waste or animal feed--agricultural and forestry residues, recycled paper, and other organic waste--treat them with acid and the right enzymes, and create relatively clean-burning ethanol and other byproducts. In doing so, there would be less landfill, pollution, and a reduced national dependence on oil, more than 55 percent of which comes from overseas. In reality, while the apparent energy crisis has made so

Eugene Russo
In theory, using cellulosic biomass makes a lot of sense. Take what would otherwise be waste or animal feed--agricultural and forestry residues, recycled paper, and other organic waste--treat them with acid and the right enzymes, and create relatively clean-burning ethanol and other byproducts. In doing so, there would be less landfill, pollution, and a reduced national dependence on oil, more than 55 percent of which comes from overseas.

In reality, while the apparent energy crisis has made so-called cellulosic biomass technologies more attractive, the industry, like that of other renewable fuels, including wind and solar power, continues to face scientific, political, and economic hurdles--as it has for years. "We're still treated as a marginal industry," says Katherine Hamilton, co-director of the industry advocacy group the American Bioenergy Association, referring to all renewables. "We're not at the table with coal and oil and gas and nukes. We're a way to...

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