Just when you thought you'd never get to eat corn again, as ethanol production and food shortages push corn prices to the moon, along comes science to remind us that the first solution is seldom the best.

Fools may appreciate the irony inherent in the news that DuPont (NYSE:DD) is entering a joint venture with Denmark's Genencor, a division of Danisco, to develop an inexpensive alternative fuel not derived from edible sources. Yes, the company that brought you ozone-depleting freon and built the country's first plutonium plant will now attempt to blaze your trail to a cleaner, healthier environment.

The 50/50 joint venture seeks to produce a technology package to render cellulosic ethanol commercially viable. DuPont and Genencor are not the only runners in this race. General Motors (NYSE:GM) recently teamed up with Coskata Energy in a partnership to develop a competing process. The Coskata process can use a broad range of feedstocks, including landfill waste or old tires. BP (NYSE:BP), for its part, is looking to produce biodiesel in Africa from the jatropha plant.

The next generation in alternative fuels appears to be growing closer, with DuPont/Genencor targeting commercial production in 2012 and GM/Coskata eyeing 2011. As the race rounds a new bend, it's still unclear who will emerge victorious, but Fools at the finish line can now begin to identify the frontrunners.

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