But the most spectacular advance could come from cellulose-based ethanol. This would make it possible to produce alcohol from virtually any plant material (including the leafs of corn and sugar cane).
During president Bush's recent visit to Brazil, both countries signed a research treaty targeted to realise this technology over the next 5 to 10 years. Cellulose based production could almost double the current output per hectare – from currently 7000 liters per hectare per year.
That is why Amory Lovins – one of the new gurus of ecology – does believe in ethanol; albeit in ethanol derived from wood and grasses, which would offer at the same time greater productivity and less pollution (as they require less – fossil – fuel for their production ).
Research on this is being done, amongst others, in Dupont's labs in Wilmington, Delaware. The US, of course, has special interest in this. Given the limitations of corn-based ethanol production, it would benefit enormously if ethanol could be produced from wood, grass, or rest products of other crops. It is expected, however, that it will take another decade before an economically viable technology for this gets developed.