I had a coversation with Rob Williams today.
Rob works at the University of California Davis in the California Biomass Collaborative. The Collaborative functions as something of a research cooperative between State, Industry, Academia, and Environmental Organizations. One project the Collaborative has been working on since 2003 is a study of alternative conversion technologies for biomass. One focus has been to look at the potential of biomass with mixed constituents (like the kind of biomass found in the municipal waste stream) to serve as viable biofuels feedstock.
I discovered Rob through his research. IÂ have spent the last few weeksÂ researching the feasibility of constructing and commercializing a technology that may have some applications in the aforementionedÂ area, and Rob has written several papers that hold some peripheral relevance.
At any rate, Rob and I spoke for a good while, talking about the potential improvements in this area for the future. One area that still requires a great deal of work is the shaping of public policy around biomass to chemical energy conversions.
One major stakeholder in Calfornia related to the diversion of waste biomass is the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB). Amongst other duties, the CIWMB sets diversion targets and constructs waste management programs that are required due to legislative mandate. They also commission research organizations, like the Biomass Collaborative, to provide problem statement, project feasibility, and solution readiness assessment studies related to the various diversion opportunities that biomass and other components of the municipal waste stream present.
One reason strategic policy is important in the development of viable waste to biochemical energy markets is that without these policies in place it is difficult to obtain social license at the county or city level to develop viable diversion projects. Traditionally, biomass in the energy space has been used for furnace fodder or the production of natural gas through decomposition or composting.
The new technologies that hold promise for the future need to find homes in the strategic policies of federal and state governments, here in the United States and abroad as well. Appropriate strategic policy will help accelerate private investiture in biochemical energy areas that hold promise, and will also help eliminate non-viable technology sets as well.