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By Robert Rapier on Jun 3, 2009 with no responses

Accoya, Ethanol, and an Anniversary

Coming up I have a book review ready to go for Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports And Engineer Sustainable Food And Fuel. However, I will wait another day or so to put that out there. For now, I will just share a couple of interesting links that readers sent to me. On the topic of my current job, a reader just noted that TreeHugger has an article (and pictures) on the bridge in the Netherlands that I have mentioned a couple of times:

Wood Bridge In Netherlands As Strong as Steel and a Lot Prettier

Have I mentioned that I love wood as a building material? If sustainably harvested it provides a strong, beautiful material that can last for centuries and sequester CO2 the whole time. People have built bridges from it forever, but in such exposed circumstances they don’t last forever.

But now there are better wood preservation techniques, and Kris De Decker of No Tech Magazine points us to a lovely new bridge in the Netherlands, purported to be the first wooden bridge in the world that can support the heaviest load class of 60 tons.

It is made from Accoya Wood, where source-certified sustainable species, including FSC certified wood, is treated by acetylation. The supplier, Titan Wood, writes:

Acetylation effectively changes the free hydroxyls within the wood into acetyl groups. This is done by reacting the wood with acetic anhydride, which comes from acetic acid (known as vinegar when in its dilute form). When the free hydroxyl group is transformed to an acetyl group, the ability of the wood to adsorb water is greatly reduced, rendering the wood more dimensionally stable and, because it is no longer digestible, extremely durable.

Second link, also brought to my attention from a reader, has the Wall Street Journal with their latest missive on ethanol:

Ethanol’s Grocery Bill

Both CBO and EPA find that in theory cellulosic ethanol — from wood chips, grasses and biowaste — would reduce carbon emissions. However, as CBO emphasizes, “current technologies for producing cellulosic ethanol are not commercially viable.” The ethanol lobby is attempting a giant bait-and-switch: Keep claiming that cellulosic ethanol is just around the corner, even as it knows the only current technology to meet federal mandates is corn ethanol (or sugar, if it didn’t face an import tariff).

As public policy, ethanol is like the joke about the baseball prospect who is a poor hitter but a bad fielder. It doesn’t reduce CO2 but it does cost more. Imagine how many subsidies the Beltway would throw at ethanol if the fuel actually had any benefits.

I close with a digression before returning tomorrow with regularly scheduled programming. Today, June 3rd, is my 20th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, I am spending it in the Netherlands while my wife is in Texas. I don’t say this to generate sympathy, but rather to set the stage for some changes that I will be announcing soon. The nature of my job – having teams in both Texas and the Netherlands – means that I am away from home a lot. I knew I could do that for a while, but I have now been doing it for a year and a half. I always knew it wasn’t sustainable in the long run for me personally, and I am experiencing the limits of my sustainability. Interpret that as you will, but all will be made clear shortly.

Happy Anniversary Sandy. Wish I was home today.