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Bourbon, Beer and Biofuel
Emily Gertz, 23 Aug 07

A lot of grain gets used in the brewing of most beers and liquors. Few seriously suggest or expect that the world would give up its bourbon, vodka, sake or ouzo to allocate those resources differently -- and it's certainly unclear that any grain not used for these (arguably) luxury goods would get to hungry people or animals. (See Francis Moore Lappé's Diet for a Small Planet on how world hunger is more about distribution than shortage).

Whatever residual guilt for this one might feel over one's beer, now you can cheer up a little: researchers in the School of Contemporary Sciences at the University of Abertay Dundee, in Scotland, have been awarded a year-long Carnegie Trust Research Grant to look for new ways to transform the spent grain from beer and whisky generation into bioethanol, which produces around 65 percent fewer greenhouse gasses when burned than petrofuel. Per lead researcher Graeme Walker in a university press release:

Our research will be looking at the far more complicated process of turning waste products from industry into bioethanol as an example of a second-generation biofuel.

These products are currently disposed of or processed for animal feed and turning them into fuel would be an attractive use of the resource.

At the moment many technical challenges remain to converting waste biomass into fuel. We will focus on finding more efficient and cost effective processes.

This is a nice example of creative cradle-to-cradle thinking that takes ostensible waste and turns it into something useful (although I recall that brewing wastes have been converted to fertilizers in some quarter..?). Kudos to the Carnegie Trust for putting up the funds.

(Via Biopact)

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