ROTORUA, New Zealand—My pitches to Ars’ editors are, in contrast to my articles, short and to the point. “I’m going to New Zealand soon. They have a big forestry industry and there is a local research institute trying to turn waste wood into biofuels. I think that would make an excellent story.”
In my mind, its acceptance was equally brief: “Sweet as. Enjoy your trip to biochemistry land.”
Today, biofuels may conjure images of ears of corn or Priuses for US readers, but the domestic industry has been as much about politics lately as it has been about scientific innovation. While researchers and scientific organizations have looked into finding green energy sources in everything from human waste to humble algae, state and federal governments continue to tangle over how much of a priority this area should be.