Food vs Fuel problem - solution on the way?
A british company believes that new technology based around a detritus-loving bug that is in almost every compost heap will help solve the bio-fuel versus food production problem. This would be a real breakthrough but environmentalists and agricultural experts have heard such claims before. While many in the world starve and food prices increase many feel crops should be grown for food rather than fuel.
A detritus-loving bug that can be found in nearly every garden compost heap in the land could be about to transform the way the world makes biofuels.
Initially, it is set to make bioethanol production from corn in the US more efficient, but the British company that has developed it says it can be applied much more broadly.
Unlike the yeasts traditionally used in brewing and bioethanol production it is more tolerant of tough plant matter, so raw materials such as grasses, willow, forest waste, wheat stalks and waste cardboard could all be converted into fuel.
The company, TMO Renewables, has built a trial plant near Guildford in Surrey to demonstrate the process. It is the first plant in the UK to use so-called "second generation" raw material - inputs that are not themselves foodstuffs. "It completely eliminates the debate about food versus fuel," says the company's CEO, Hamish Curran.