Lack of Profitability Drives U.S. Company Out of Biofuels Business


A U.S.-based company that used genetic engineering to develop a technology to convert sugar into biofuel has announced that it will stop producing the fuel, at least temporarily, because the process simply isn’t profitable.

Amyris, a San Francisco firm that also produces cosmetic products, had engineered a type of yeast that can eat sugar and secrete an oil similar to diesel. While the company had some success using this process in the production of biofuels, including for use by buses in Brazil, it achieved greater profits selling the chemicals for use in other products, such as moisturizers and fragrances, according to a report by MIT’s Technology Review.

According to the report, the average selling price for the company’s products is about $7.70 per liter ($29 per gallon), which is far higher than the cost of petroleum-based diesel. And even the $7.70 price was propped up by the amount the company can earn by producing moisturizers. According to Amyris officials, the company will stop producing biodiesels by mid-year, but the firm remains interested in developing commercial-scale fuel plants in the future.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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