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GM Launches Partnership With Ethanol Firm Coskata

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Article

GM Launches Partnership

With Ethanol Firm Coskata

By LAUREN ETTER

January 14, 2008

General Motors Corp. announced Sunday that it is partnering with a new cellulosic ethanol company, the most recent move by the automaker to boost its green credentials and a sign the race to produce fuel out of waste is intensifying.

The Illinois-based company, Coskata, Inc. is one of nine cellulosic ethanol companies backed by billionaire investor Vinod Khosla and is one of more than a dozen companies in the U.S. that are rushing to develop a way to efficiently produce cellulosic ethanol. This type of fuel can be made from many different materials, including wood, orange peels and tires.

GM, which is taking an undisclosed financial stake in the company, is making a foray into the cellulosic ethanol field as part of a broader campaign to convince car buyers it is committed to fuel economy and capable of chasing Toyota Motor Corp. in terms of environmental leadership.

The company, which has been aggressively marketing ethanol as a way to complement its growing fleet of vehicles that can run on the fuel blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline called E85, says it is also part of its "commitment to reinvent the automobile" by building vehicles that can run on everything from hydrogen fuel cells to electricity.

Coskata hopes that allying with GM will give the company brand recognition and an immediate platform for its fuel once it hits the market, which isn't expected to be until 2011 at the earliest.

So far cellulosic ethanol has been a pipe dream despite years of ongoing research in the field. Only a handful of companies are producing the fuel on a pilot scale, and none yet is operating on a large commercial level because it is still too expensive to make. A protracted bout of high oil prices and significant government support is likely to give the fuel a boost and speed up commercialization.

Last month President George W. Bush signed an energy bill that requires oil refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels into the nation's gasoline supply by 2022. Of that, 21 billion gallons must be "advanced biofuels," which includes cellulosic ethanol. Currently about 7 billion gallons of ethanol are used in the U.S., and nearly all comes from corn.

Whoever figures out how to make cellulosic ethanol first will propel fuel and autos to a new level that could achieve Henry Ford's dream of running cars not on petroleum but on a range of farm products like apples, sawdust and weeds. Widespread use of the fuel could dramatically reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gases significantly.

Still investors have been wary of sinking money into cellulosic ethanol since in the past research in the field has withered when oil prices drop.

Bill Roe, chief executive at Coskata, believes today is different because of the government's support for the fuel and because demand for energy is increasing at a rapid clip in emerging economies like China. Also new technologies will help make the fuel more cost competitive.

--John Stoll and Stephen Power contributed to this article.

Write to Lauren Etter at lauren.etter@wsj.com

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Everything has changed in the past 5 years. Forget about 9/11, it is the coming Chinese collossus that is going to be the challenge of the 21st Century. China's insatiable appetite for resources is going to outstrip anything we can imagine. With sheer force of population, China only has to acheive 25% of the per capita GDP to surpass the U.S. - a number it is fast approaching.

It is good to see GM, and the U.S. government finally getting religion. This is one oil boom cycle that won't go away.

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by building vehicles that can run on everything from hydrogen fuel cells to electricity.

Umm, yeah. Isn't that pretty much one in the same?

* I think China will have an impact, but we're dealing with global corporations here. Every new technology that GM et al. introduces here is sure to be introduced there as well. Thus, the benefits will offset the cost that much more. I'm not saying it's going to solve our problems, but I think it will help.

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if cellulosic ethanol is so great, hopefully "we" can stop having to subsidize it!

this and renewable diesel should be the future of ICE's, if it's economical and widespread.

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This is very good news!! If you can make ethanol out of alot of other things(trash)instead of stripping down crops of corn to make grain ethanol I'm all for it!! Especially here in Michigan where tons of trash everyday is hauled in from Canada. I say use all of this trash instead of putting it into the ground. We have enough landfills and Canada's trash is not helping, it's only going to help open more landfills. Thanks Jennifer Granholm for selling Michigan's soul just for the almighty dollar it might bring. Well it's not bringing in enough $$$ because look at the economy here.

Edited by RJB
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Bravo!

GM is doing a very good thing here for a host of reasons.

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This is very good news!! If you can make ethanol out of alot of other things(trash)instead of stripping down crops of corn to make grain ethanol I'm all for it!! Especially here in Michigan where tons of trash everyday is hauled in from Canada. I say use all of this trash instead of putting it into the ground. We have enough landfills and Canada's trash is not helping, it's only going to help open more landfills. Thanks Jennifer Granholm for selling Michigan's soul just for the almighty dollar it might bring. Well it's not bringing in enough $$$ because look at the economy here.

Do I detect a touch of bitterness here? :AH-HA_wink:

Just blame our do-nothing Mayor and the usual NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) people. Brampton has the right idea: they incinerate most of their trash, but NOOOOO our Mayor wouldn't even look at that. So, off to Michigan it goes, and the hundreds of trucks a day on the 401 and all THAT wear and tear on an already overcrowded highway, plus the emissions released. Yeah, great idea that, shipping our garbage 300 miles. We should ship most of our Council to Michigan - THAT would be an improvement! Then you would really have something to complain about! :lol: What is the going rate for used up, knee-jerk politicians down there anyway?

That's okay, with their latest brainiac ideas, people will just end up dropping their garbage in front of schools, parks, etc. By 2010, I think city residents will be down to a sandwich baggie a week of garbage that they are allowed to put out at the curb.

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This really is the answer.

Change the fuel!

Not the cars!

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