Engineering Materials

DuPont Recruits 500 Farmers for Non-Food Biofuel Project

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Elizabeth M
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Re: depends on the cost and the benefit
Elizabeth M   1/17/2013 2:22:16 PM
I am sure your cost argument is valid but I wonder how much of that argument comes from a culture that is entrenched in how things have always been done and doesn't want to branch out and make the effort to do something new with the waste. I suppose it will take efforts like DuPont's (which I applaud, by the way) to see how this can be both environmentally and financially sound for all parties involved. Maybe you're right and it's policy that will change things and support this so it benefits the farmers as well.

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depends on the cost and the benefit
naperlou   1/17/2013 1:48:22 PM
Ann, don't get me wrong, but I still have to wonder about the economics of this.  After one of your previous articles I was down on a farm here in Illinois.  I asked the fatmer about it.  He had significant corn stubble left in his fields.  He was aware of the opportunity, but pointed out that he would have to bundle the stalks for them to be used.  The indication was that it was not worth the cost.  Costs include fuel, equipment wear and farmer time (and wear). 

Getting the most from a raw material is very attractive from a social and environmental point of view.  The problem comes in the economics.  There was a recent article I saw about ethanol producers trying to get more out of the corn by developing secondary products.  One was a protien that could be used to make plastics.  So, even using the "leftovers" from a process, it turns out that it is cheaper to petroleum based products for the same purpose.  These are the kind of engineering trade studies I have seen in a myriad of businesses. 

It may take tax and environmental policies to tip the scales. 

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