Ingram to Discuss Food-Friendly Ethanol

  • By:
    Stu Hutson – (352) 273-3569
  • Source:
    Lonnie Ingram – ingram@ufl.edu

Lonnie Ingram
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the last two years, the price of gasoline in the U.S. has doubled – leaving the nation scrambling for ways to meet fuel needs. With many alternatives on the horizon, vehicles that use ethanol to supplement gasoline are already becoming a common sight on America’s roadways.

“Ethanol is going play a very important role in how the nation – and the world, for that matter – powers itself in the upcoming decades,” said Lonnie Ingram, University of Florida distinguished professor of microbiology and cell science and director of the Florida Center for Renewable Chemicals and Fuels.

That role will largely be characterized by how ethanol is produced, Ingram says. Most of the world’s ethanol is made from crops like corn, leading to a tug of resources that can take food from the mouths of some to run the car engines of others.

On Tuesday, September 30, Ingram will discuss his work to produce ethanol from inedible parts of plants such as corn and sugar stalks as well as yard waste. Part of the York Distinguished Lecturer Series, the presentation is free and open to the public and will be given at 2:00pm in the President’s Room of Emerson Alumni Hall.

In work that earned him the nation’s 5 millionth Landmark Patent and membership in the National Academy of Sciences, Ingram has developed a strain of bacteria capable of breaking the toughest plant materials – from yard waste to salvaged wood – into fodder for fuel ethanol that could cost pennies on the gallon. All without putting a strain on the world’s fuel supply.

In April 2007, Ingram advised President George W. Bush on the potential benefits of cellulosic ethanol based on his own experience with the fuel. His technology is at the heart of the first publicly traded company with end-to-end capability to produce cellulosic biofuels, Massachusetts-based Verenium Corp.

Ingram’s process will soon be carried out in demonstration plants in Louisiana and South Florida, and has already proven itself profitable in a Japanese facility. Additionally, in October, a biofuel pilot plant will officially open on the Gainesville campus of the University of Florida.

“We don’t really have the luxury of asking ‘what if?’ anymore,” Ingram said. “We know what the problems are that we have to deal with, and now we need to put the solutions that we have into effect.”

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