The Australian Federal Government has recently awarded Aus$15 million toward the development of the next generation of biofuel technologies.
Through the Second Generation Biofuels Research and Development Program, seven institutions, such as the Algal Fuels Consortium and the University of Melbourne, received grants to continue research of different alternative fuels. One of the largest grants (Aus$2.5 million) went to Microbiogen, an Australia-based developer of non-genetically modified yeast.
Australia government officials, such as the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, say that the technology will provide unique opportunities for supplementing existing fuel supplies by obtaining biofuels from low cost, non-food materials.
With the help of the grant, Microbiogen will be able to further develop its new yeast, which is capable of utilizing both glucose and xylose, also known as C6 and C5 sugars. This can enable the conversion of plant sugars and waste materials into ethanol and other useful products, including nutritious food and feedstock.
According to an article in the Biofuels Journal, Microbiogen’s scientific development has the potential to transform biofuel production, making it more efficient and more economically and environmentally sound. In the food versus fuel dilemma, many people fear food shortages due to ethanol fuel production. Some believe this new technology could be the solution to the problem.
Microbiogen is currently in the process of seeking potential collaborators with the proper facilities to conduct testing.
As part of the ‘Train and Place’ program by the Malaysian government, many youth in the country will soon be trained to install NGV systems and become mechanics.
Ranked 24 th in terms of oil reserves and 13 th for gas in 2004, Malaysia has seen an economic boom. However, high unemployment in the country has resulted in desperate conditions for many Malaysian youth, particularly ethnic Indians who feel they have been left out in job opportunities and seats in local universities. Malaysian government officials hope that the new training program will help Indian youth to find employment and will reduce dependence on foreign workers.
For a country whose main resource is petroleum, Malaysia maintains a relatively strong interest in alternative fuels technology. In the late 1990’s, the use of CNG for new taxicabs and airport limousines was implemented and drivers were encouraged to send in their old taxicabs for full engine conversions. A 41% price hike on petrol and diesel in 2008 resulted in a 500% increase in the number of new CNG tanks installed.
With a population of approximately 28 million, alternative fuel vehicles are increasingly needed in Malaysia to prevent pollution that often contaminates the bustling cities. That means more technicians with knowledge of alternative fuel vehicles are also needed. Now, through the ‘Train and Place’ program, participants will receive four months of training in various technical skills to meet the country’s growing demand for skilled workers.
Malaysian government officials say the youth will complete their training in November and will most likely be employed in an area of their skills by December.