In my previous post about the adverse effects of cold weather on fuel stocks in Florida, I analyzed a news article discussing the immediate effects of the freeze on crops that had already been reserved for biofuel use. This meant that continued biofuels research was halted as it became cost prohibitive due to skyrocketing feed stock prices. This is not to say, however, that other, more cold-weather tolerant species couldn’t be planted in their place.
A number of new cold-resistant crops are being developed such as the new strain of jatropha, engineered by SG biofuels. This new strain could be planted in tropical regions such as Florida where they would most likely flourish more than in other parts of the country, and it would also be able to survive the rare cold snaps which occur in tropical regions that are so detrimental to other biofuel feedstocks. Eucalyptus was discussed as another cold-resistant alternative, but I couldn’t find any definite proof of this research, only un-cited blog posts- I’ll look into this further. While great advances have been made at increasing biomass production in sugar cane, there has been no success in making it more cold-tolerant. The new “energy-cane” would seemingly be a terrific biofuel feedstock, but as of right now, it would run the same route as citrus and switchgrass feedstocks: if the temperatures got too cold, the entire crop would be destroyed.
Another question that came out of this article is whether or not freezing damages the feedstock in such a way that it can no longer be processed for biofuel. It doesn’t appear that any investigation has been done in this area on a large scale. The only research I was able to find on this was a paper (A new class of plants for a biofuel feedstock energy crop, James Kamm, Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology) that I do not have access to but I’m going to try and find it elsewhere. In the original article I was discussing, it seemed as though most of the crops that were frozen and destroyed weren’t being used for biofuel production on a large scale, some of them (such as citrus) didn’t even have concrete methods of efficient conversion into biofuel yet. The freezing was detrimental to the area of biofuel research as a whole because this drove the price of the products (particularly citrus) up so high that researchers cannot afford to continue developing methods of converting these potential fuels into a resource that would be feasible to produce on a large scale.