1 - this week, India's Tata Motors finally unveiled the Nano, its longishly-promised $2,500 car, to be available in India starting later this year. great news for freedom and economic development, but also news that ought to, ahhh, 'focus' the minds of those thinking about energy prices and greenhouse gas emissions etc. as noted by Tom Barnett in his most recent editorial, unprecedented and undoubtedly long-term growth trends in China and India are already the primary driver for today's high oil prices - just as they are for high prices in most commodities - and this kind of news is a clear signal that this dynamic will only intensify. as the houston chronicle puts it, "$2,500 cars = $200 oil?" sounds plausible to me.
2 - today, a previously 'stealth' next-generation ethanol start-up called Coskata made their big splash, timed to coincide with the beginning of the Detroit Auto Show. if biofuels are going to be a big part of addressing the trends in item #1, it's not going to be from corn alcohol in Iowa, it'll be from next generation technologies that can produce fuel from grasses, trees, biomass waste streams (forestry, paper mills, ag, 'municipal'), etc. and it wouldn't be surprising if the technological breakthroughs look something like Coskata's process, which hybridizes established gasification technologies and an apparently major biotech breakthrough in the form of proprietary microbes that eat the syngas and excrete ethanol. something old, something new, something borrowed, etc. they're claiming production costs of under $1 per gallon, and could not have more high profile backing - they've announced a partnership with GM and equity investors that include GM and some of the biggest names in cleantech VC (Khosla et al). I think this is gonna be big news in the papers tomorrow, it seems like kind of a big deal - they're planning on building a 100m gallon per year facility by 2011.