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Aust brothers biofuel breakthrough of 'global significance'
02/11/2012 - A technology breakthrough by two Australian brothers could offer a solution to the world's insatiable appetite for food and fuel. Nick Perry
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Phillip and Geoff Bell have developed a new way to produce ethanol from waste products such as sugar cane, instead of using food crops such as corn.
Not only that, but the leftover yeast used in making the environmentally friendly fuel is then turned into high-quality animal feed.
The Australian researchers created a buzz on Thursday when they revealed their findings at the AusBiotech Conference in Melbourne, the largest biotechnology industry gathering in the Asia-Pacific.
AusBiotech chief executive Anna Lavelle said their discovery was of "global significance" as it tackled two of the world's biggest issues — future fuel and food supply — in one fell swoop.
"To have the one technology successfully addressing both of these issues simultaneously is very impressive to see," Dr Lavelle told reporters.
"This technology deserves to be fully exploited."
Despite being a source of clean renewable energy, ethanol production is costly and requires huge areas of farmland to grow the food crops needed as biomass.
Dr Lavelle said Australia, unlike the US, had never grown food for fuel and was not likely to begin any time soon.
But Geoff Bell said that was what made this technology so unique.
"We don't take away from the fuel supply, we add to it," he told reporters.
Their specially evolved yeast turns useless corn husks and sugar cane into fuel before producing an animal feed that offers more nutrition than soy.
Selling the feed can then offset the cost of producing the ethanol, resulting in a win-win for investors.
Bell says Australia, with its vast wetland areas to the north and unprofitable sugar cane farms, is ideally positioned to take advantage of this technology.
"If you apply our technology to these areas, you're looking at tripling the value per hectare of products from the land," he said.
The brothers' company, Microbiogen, financed their research with a $2.5 million grant from the federal government's Australian Renewable Energy Agency and funding from the Department of Energy in the US.
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Don | 2/11/2012 11:23 1
See what can be attained from support by the Federal govt. Not like our Victorian Govt who have decimated agricultural support organisations like the Dept of Primary Industries.
Goldie | 2/11/2012 13:10 2
Good on these blokes but it will not make a cracker of difference to the cost of fuel in this country as most if not all that is produced will be sold to someone else or some smart arsed pollie will tell us we have to pay world prices or some such crap.
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