Barbados should be into Butanol, not Ethanol, to power autos – but we lack the vision and leadership

distillery butanol

“It would appear that, only certain persons in this society are founts of knowledge and that their opinions and ideas are adhered to, even when they are talking on subjects outside their area of technical competence.”

by Robert D. Lucas, PH.D.

There was an article entitled “Deal to turn whisky ‘leftovers’ into bio-fuels for cars”, in a local newspaper of Wednesday 26th September 2012. The same news item was aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Monday 24th September 2012. It was reported in paragraph five of the article that, ninety percent of the stuff which comes out of the distillery is not whisky. It is leftovers like daff and pot ales which are high in sugars. It is planned, as reported in the article, to utilize these leftovers for the manufacture of butanol (an alcohol) for use as a bio-fuel. I have some points and observations which I will now make.

In the past (letters to Advocate: 7th June, 1998; 31st July, 2002; 3rd August, 2004 and 18th May 2006) I have advocated that yeast by-products (which are a high quality source of protein) from rum manufacturing, be utilized in the manufacture of rations for livestock locally. As I pointed out then, alcohol is a toxic by-product of the metabolism of molasses by various strains of yeast Saccharomyces cervisisiae. Once a threshold level of alcohol is reached, the yeast die off; but considerable amounts of free molasses remain. The yeast can be separated and used as a source of high-protein input for animal rations. The cell-free extract can then be distilled to remove ethanol. The residual liquid can be fermented to obtain more alcohol. Alternatively, selective pressure can be used on S.cervisisiae, to obtain strains of yeasts with increased tolerance to ethanol. The same trait can be obtained using genetic engineering techniques, to obtain improve alcohol tolerance of yeasts.

Butanol beats Ethanol for vehicles!

In 2006, in a letter (“Ethanol not the only manufacturing solution”), I proposed that the alcohol of choice for use as a bio-fuel be butanol.

I pointed out then that, butanol produced only 3%, whereas, ethanol produced 35% of the levels of green house gas emissions associated with the use of gasoline. Butanol has a higher molecular weight than ethanol, which results in butanol having an energy content of 110,000 Btu per gallon, whereas ethanol only has 84,000Btu. It also has six and thirteen times lower Reid’s vapor pressures than ethanol and gasoline respectfully. It is therefore safer to use than either gasoline or ethanol. Butanol has a higher octane rating than ethanol and can be mixed in any ratio with gasoline or can be used as a stand-alone fuel. Additionally, there would be no need to replace the distribution system which is presently being used for gasoline.

As can be seen, long ago I wrote about what should be done in this country in terms of technology, to lower the cost of living for Barbadians.

It would appear that, only certain persons in this society are founts of knowledge and that their opinions and ideas are adhered to, even when they are talking on subjects outside their area of technical competence.

According to a 2010 BBC program “Science in Action,” the reliance on the old-boy network was the main reason, why there was no Silicon Valley in Britain. It was also mentioned that persons with doctorates, who had been working extensively in administration, on no account, should be placed to head or direct research thrusts. The genesis of the argument, being that such persons, having been away from the laboratory, are steeped in the politics of administration and grants procurements and  are no longer thinking not only in an un-innovative manner, but are also not familiar with cutting edge technology. As the saying goes, “where there is no vision the people perish.”

Robert D. Lucas, PH.D.
Food biotechnologist.

Photo credit: BBC News, Scotland Business (Thanks BBC!)


Filed under Barbados, Energy, Environment, Science

10 responses to “Barbados should be into Butanol, not Ethanol, to power autos – but we lack the vision and leadership

  1. Jrjrjrjr

    Really a Ph D who can’t spell ? The word is FONTS not FOUNTS

  2. Anonymous

    Check this site out.
    The last thing we need is this crap on the market, (Ethanol ? you got to be joking) “who is getting paid off to advertise this stuff?” our Diesel stinks now we want to do the same with gasoline. Let us stick to drinking Alcohol
    I don’t know why the car dealers are scared to open their mouth on this subject.

  3. Anonymous

    Lacking leadership and Vision is one thing and bringing Ethanol to our shores is one big mistake. see this video clip.
    We don’t need this crap to join with the poor Diesel we already have.
    Don’t the Car Dealers have any guts, Open your mouth.
    It is known the Alcohol tears up rubber components, it was made to drink not drive.
    A bottle of rum maybe $30.00, a gallon of gas is only $8.00 How can we produce Ethanol to compete with Gasoline

  4. yatiniteasy

    jrjrjrjr….look things up (try Google) before you put your mouth in gear..The professor is totally correct in the use and spelling of the word ‘Founts”.

  5. yatiniteasy

    Here is an article on the E 15 from AAA in December 2012.

  7. Robert Ross

    Yatin and JR

    Actually the fella has trouble with commas.

  8. bob

    to robert ross: you seem to have a problem with what lucas has done . i would suggest that you try doing some research of your own. You are a typical Barbadian. Envy oozes out of you like water from asponge.

  9. Robert Ross


    LOL why you picking on me rather than, say, JR? But no matter. I have no problem with what Lucas has done whatever it is he has done. I know absolutely nothing about him. Mind, I distrust people who feel it necessary to publish their Degrees and when they actually suggest explicitly that they have more brain cells than others or more vision than others, as in this post, I think it entirely permissible to tweek their egos. In this case, Lucas, the use of commas IS dreadful and rather destroys the sense of what he’s saying at times. But my remark was not ‘heavy’. For me, he comes over as the mad scientist who thinks the rest of the world is crazy. But even if he is, presumably someone will take up his ideas if they are any good. Has anyone?

  10. spokentruth

    Sorry BFP but you are incorrect about either Butanol or Ethanol and as for the comments on either fuel above…typical people talking from the anus.

    “It is known alcohol tears up rubber components” . You dummy….you do realise there are different blends of ethanol right?