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Biofuel of the Future - Turning our Garbage into Energy

Two overwhelming environmental calamities, simultaneously banging at the door of our consciousness, may very well be more closely related than you might originally think.

Calamity #1: We appear to be quickly running out of oil, the primary source of energy that fuels the planets existence!

Calamity #2: We are quickly becoming increasingly inundated by an exponentially growing ocean of trash and garbage!

However, the good news is, scientists have now discovered some amazingly effective, mutually beneficial, symbiotic processes that could single-handedly solve both imminent problems with the creation of “bio-fuels” and “synthetic fuels” derived directly from our trash and garbage.

The latest research published by “Global Change Biology” states we will soon be at the point where we can replace gasoline with biofuels processed exclusively from our tons of garbage and actually cut global carbon emissions by 80%, while simultaneously cleaning up the mountains of trash defiling the environment all around the globe.

Up until now, many of the more developed, economically, politically, technologically and militarily advanced nations simply shipped their waste products to the proverbial “backyards” of “Third World” nations, foisting the rotting garbage, chemicals, disease and other associative dangers on those who simply didn’t have the power or influence to stop the “ecological terrorism.”

So clearly, the dramatic benefits of creating usable energy out of our multiplying mountains of trash and other waste materials is just good sense!

One impressive energy innovation is the derivation of “Cellulosic Ethanol,” an energy rich, second-generation bio-fuel that is processed completely from urban waste. In the words of Hugh Tan, Associate Professor of the National University of Singapore, “Our results suggest that fuel from processed waste biomass, such as paper and cardboard, is a promising clean energy solution.”

The Professor continued by explaining the full ramifications of this work, sighting the fact that “If developed fully this biofuel could simultaneously meet part of the world’s energy needs, while also combating carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency.”

Meanwhile, equally significant, The United Nation’s “Human Development Index” and “Earth Trends Database” team’s latest calculations reveal that approximately 83 Billion Liters of cellulosic ethanol can be produced by the available landfill waste in the world, resulting in this new biofuel effectively reducing global carbon emissions an average of 57.65% for every unit of energy produced.

As for practicality and extent to which this might one day come to reasonable rely on this new energy source, Dr. Lian Pin Koh of ETH Zürich optimistically assesses that “If this technology continues to improve and mature these numbers are certain to increase. This could make cellulosic ethanol an important component of our renewable energy future.”

In the United States, US automaker General Motors has recently entered into a strategic partnership with Illinois based “Coskata Inc.” who has developed a way to make a quality ethanol from practically any renewable source, from organic waste to old tires.

The “Coskata Process” is a major improvement over the previous, “corn-based” ethanol, because it utilizes a lot less energy and water to produce and doesn’t necessitate diverting much needed food stuff away from hungry populations in order to create energy.

Rick Wagoner, General Motors “Chief Executive Officer” shares the fact that "We are very excited about what this breakthrough will mean to the viability of biofuels and, more importantly, to our ability to reduce dependence on petroleum." General Motors, which fell behind the rest of the pack when it came to introducing “Gas /Electric Hybrids,” is now proud to be the industry leader in these “Flex-Fuel” vehicles that can run on gasoline that is blended with as much as 85% ethanol.

GM is currently producing more than a million “flex-fuel” vehicles a year and has already committed itself to making 50% of its over-all automobile production “Flex-Fuel” vehicles by the year 2012.

Wagoner goes on to explain "There is no question in my mind that making ethanol more widely available is absolutely the most effective and environmentally sound solution and it's one that can be acted on immediately."

Coskata’s Chief Bill Roe excitedly reports "We will have our first commercial-scale plant making 50 to 100 million gallons of ethanol running in 2011." According to the industry renowned and respected Argonne National Laboratory, which has been analyzing the new “Coskata Process,” this fuel generates up nearly 800% more energy than conventional gasoline, while reducing CO2 emissions by as much as 84%.

Also, compared to traditional corn based ethanol, the new “Coskata Process,” actually uses less than a gallon of water to make a gallon of ethanol, compared to the three plus gallons of water that it takes to make current day “moonshine” ethanol!

While Coskata estimates that municipal waste could be used to produce 8-10 billion gallons of fuel annually, Wes Bolsen, Coskata’s Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer comments on the currently “untapped market” of industrial waste, which could double in the foreseeable future says that “Industrial waste gases off of steel mills could provide another 10 billion gallons.

Bolsen continues by adding that “Those gases are exactly what Coskata’s microbes could eat. They’re burning bug food. Coskata is actively approaching steel producers to turn those gases into fuel.”

Then there is the work of “Synthetic Genomics,” the brain child start up Craig Venter. This much talked about “Fourth-Generation Biofuel” is designed to high octane energy from one of our most notorious environmental demons, the much feared, “ultimate waste product,” carbon dioxide.

Then there is the fascinating case of Joseph Longo, know in energy circles as “The Prophet of Garbage!” Longo's Plasma Converter was designed to turn our most vile and toxic trash and garbage into “clean energy” and may very well fulfill its promise to one day, eventually make memorable “relics” out of all of our currently burgeoning and overflowing land-fills.

Yes, in Bristol, Connecticut, founder and CEO of “Startech Environmental Corporation,” Joseph Longo has spent the last 2 decades perfecting his multi-million dollar system, which in simplest terms, is a “30,000?F arc of man-made lightning” which is used to heat an internal vat of plasma that contains everything from dirty diapers and chemical waste to toxic chemicals and contaminated medical refuse.

“There’s no flame or fire inside. It’s just electricity,” reporters are assured by facility manager David Lynch, who is overseeing the current demonstration of what has come to affectionately be known as the “Plasma Converter.”

Basically, “Startech´s” space age “trash converter” utilizes super-heated plasma, which is an electrically conductive mass of charged particles of both ions and electrons, which are generated from ordinary air, in order to effectively reduce all kinds of garbage down to its simplest, molecular components.

The trash is initially fed into an electronic auger that shreds it into small pieces. Then that mulch material is delivered into the plasma chamber, where the “super-heated plasma” goes about its job, converting the waste into two very significant by-products.

The first is a powerful “syngas” (synthetic gas) which is composed primarily of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This “syngas” is then fed into the adjacent “Starcell” system so that it can then fully converted into fuel.

The second by-product is “molten glass” that can be used for everything from household tiles to a durable constituent in road asphalt.

This process, called “Plasma Gasification,” is much like the theory of the “Big Bang,” only in reverse, where now the cosmic magicians waves their enchanted wands and out of multiple tons of bulky, disgusting trash and garbage, we get clean, efficient energy! As far as magic goes, it’s definitely a great trick and honestly one that I could see a “repeat performance” of on a regular basis.

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  • Anonymous on September 14 2010 said:
    I think one of the reasons no one gets into this kind of alternative, is that the developers only see it as something to be done at a municipal level. Solar and wind have taken ages to get to where more and more home users are employing them, but I can currently tell you a half-dozen places I could walk into right now and purchase a large panel from. I don't see this process changing my life, because I don't see my county paying to install it at the county landfill. If it were small enough to be accessible to individuals, and it would process only enough to run a generator on, that would be plenty to change my life! No more trash pick-up bill, no more smelly garbage bin sitting outside in the heat, and if I used a good enough generator, no more electric bill. Easily a savings of $300.00 (USd) per month.

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