There was a time one could buy fuel for ones car or truck for a “Buck-A-Gallon” … and it is a past we can embrace right now … TODAY!
Well, at least General Motors seems to think so with its investment in Biofuel processing startup Coskata.
The key to the conversion approach Coskata has perfected uses bacteria to break down the broad array of organic waste (switch grasses, twigs, corn husks, leaves, landscape waste, and other non-food sources of organic material) and make Ethanol for a fuel mix or replacement.
Quick comment before continuing—Mark Twain said that “[h]istory doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” and this is a good example. Back in the late 1800s a by-product of oil processing was burned off since there wasn't a use for it, until some clever engineers found a use for it—gasoline to power internal combustion engines in cars.
Scientists there say they have developed a way to produce truly carbon-neutral fuel and useful organic chemicals at large scale using water and carbon dioxide removed from the air as raw materials. There are plenty of schemes brewing to capture carbon dioxide, both directly from the atmosphere and from the stacks of power plants. All of them, for the moment, are costly or hard to envision at the billion-tons-a-year scale that would be needed to blunt the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere coming mainly from fuel burning.
UPDATE: 2/13, 5 p.m.: This plan has a minor hurdle, too; the electricity for driving the chemical processes, according to a white paper describing the overarching concept, would come from nuclear power. The proposal says it'd be worth it to have a payoff of steady, secure streams of methanol and gasoline with no carbon added to the atmosphere (and a price for gasoline at the pump of perhaps $4.60 a gallon—comparable to petroleum-based fuels as oil becomes harder to find).
It's because of articles like these that I'm not overly concerned about peak oil. We're a resourceful species, and we'll find alternatives long before oil runs out.