Friday, October 19, 2007

Microbe and the investors who see its potential in ethanol production get noticed by Post

A month ago, The Rural Blog reported on SunEthanol, a biofuels technology company in Amherst, Mass., that is working with a bacterium that converts all sorts of plant matter, including cellulose, into ethanol. The company is using research by University of Massachusetts Amherst microbiologist Susan Leschine, who has made it the focus of her work for the past decade and is the chief scientist at SunEthanol.

This week, The Washington Post ran a story about SunEthanol and its chief investor, VeraSun Energy, which is one of the nation's biggest producers of ethanol. Like so many others, SunEthanol is working hard to try and make cellulosic ethanol a moneymaker, writes Steven Mufson. "At the moment, they have a way to go. Unlike ethanol made from corn, not a drop of cellulosic ethanol is being commercially produced. Half a dozen pilot projects are being built — with the help of $385 million in Energy Department grants — but no one claims to have a sure thing."

Mufson explains that the microbe discovered by Leschine is the key to SunEthanol's future, but to succeed, she and the rest of the startup company must find a way a to move the microbe from the lab to the factory. Just as importantly, they must keep raising money and get more ethanol makers interested in their microbe. (Read more)

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