U.S. Navy looks to Hawaii to Drive Biofuel Development

A biofuel firm called Cobalt Technologies based in California has developed an innovative way to recycle dead trees to produce biobutanol.  They came up with this idea as a way to recycle energy found in trees that have been killed by a pest known as the pine beetle. The beetles kill the trees by boring through the bark into the phloem layer on which they feed and in which eggs are laid. Pioneer female beetles initiate attacks, and produce pheromones which attract other beetles and results in mass attack. After particularly long and hot summers, the mountain pine beetle population can increase dramatically, which leads to the deforestation of large areas; current outbreaks are in Rocky Mountain National Park. It will be the first time the fuel has been produced from dead trees- usually the production of the fuel uses healthy, living trees. The biofuel firm has now signed a fuel testing partnership with the Colorado State University to further test fuel produced from the dead trees to assess its compatibility with vehicle engines. A spokesperson from the company said, “Harvesting beetle-killed trees could produce low-carbon fuels and chemicals, establish a foundation for a sustainable biorefinery industry and create jobs, particularly in rural areas. If we use only half of the 2.3 million acres currently affected in Colorado alone, we could produce over two billion gallons of biobutanol — enough to blend into all the gasoline used in Colorado for six years.”

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