Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

U.S. Biofuel Startup Turns to Brazil

High corn prices have driven Amyris out of the country in search of cheaper feedstocks.

  • April 23, 2008

High corn prices are driving next-generation biofuel startups out of the country, and that could be a good thing. Today, Amyris, a company that’s genetically engineering microorganisms to convert sugar into hydrocarbons such as diesel, announced partnerships that will pave the way for it to use sugar that’s derived from sugarcane grown in Brazil rather than sugar derived from corn. Recently, corn prices have skyrocketed, reaching record levels of over $6 a bushel. That’s made it very difficult for ethanol producers to make money. Sugarcane provides a cheaper alternative to corn, and that’s one of the reasons that Amyris is turning to Brazil, says Jeryl Hilleman, the company’s chief financial officer.

The move to Brazil could be a good thing for the environment, because sugarcane requires less energy to process than corn, resulting in less carbon dioxide emissions. But ultimately, neither sugarcane nor corn is an ideal feedstock. What’s needed are nonfood cellulosic sources, such as grass and wood chips, especially given the abrupt rise in food prices worldwide that have recently prompted riots in Haiti and elsewhere. (See “Battling Ethanol-Propelled Food Prices.”) But so far, processes for turning such sources into sugar have been too expensive.

More from Business Impact

How technology advances are changing the economy and providing new opportunities in many industries.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.