ethanol.jpgWe’ve written a lot about local Silicon Valley projects that look to use ethanol for things like powering vehicles. Here’s news of the latest study, by UC Berkeley scientist Tad Patzek, that farts on the idea. It says more energy is used up in producing the stuff, than it produces itself. But make sure you keep reading all the way down, because it takes a bit to get to the criticism of the study — there are lots of credible people who disagree. The real answer: It’s going to take a while before ethanol works well.

Like we said in this piece back in January, it’ll take three to five years:

Palo Alto’s Genencor has worked feverishly on the problem of lowering the cost of ethanol production. Ethanol, which can be produced from plants and blended efficiently into gasoline, burns clean. But it’s expensive. Experts, inside and out, say Genencor’s breakthroughs in ethanol production could hit competitive price points — of 5 to 10 cents a gallon — within three to five years.

Biofuels are where Silicon Valley may contribute the most, says Epstein, who founded Environmental Entrepreneurs, a local group focused on clean technology.

”If Silicon Valley, through bioengineering, solves the problem of how to efficiently convert energy from plant material — if they crack the code on that — that’s the biggest transformation I could imagine,” he said.