For a long time now I’ve held to the position that the energy crisis and the problems of climate change will not be solved by government sanctions on our activities but by technological advances in the free market. People like recent Nobel-Prize winner Al Gore don’t like not knowing exactly what those advances will be and how they will come about, and prophesy catastrophe if it doesn’t happen right now. But the scientists who work on solutions every day aren’t concerned with the politics of the thing: they’re just quietly making it happen.

This fantastic article in the October 2007 issue of Wired Magazine gives details of what I believe will be the most likely future of energy: cellulosic ethanol. The general idea is this:

“Take a plant and extract the cellulose. Add some enzymes and convert the cellulose molecules into sugars. Ferment the sugar into alcohol. Then distill the alcohol into fuel. One, two, three, four — and we’re powering our cars with lawn cuttings, wood chips, and prairie grasses instead of Middle East oil.”

And the prospects look great:

“Almost everybody believes it’s doable. People disagree whether it’ll take two years or 20.”

And there’s the rub: Al Gore and the environmentalist movement won’t be happy with a solution that takes 20 years. They’re impatient bastards; they want it now. But make no mistake: the future is in the advances of technology, and cellulosic ethanol seems the most likely candidate for the future of fuel. Let’s let them get on with it, and make it as easy as possible for corporations to invest in this stuff: to government, that means ‘Get out of the way.’