Whiskey Biofuels: A Sustainable Fuel Worth Toasting?
Having spent many of my formidable years tucked well below the Bible Belt, I have a special affinity for whiskey–bourbon to be precise. While a nip is sure to warm you up on a cold winter’s day (or cool you down when mixed with ice, simple syrup, and a squeeze of lemon) I didn’t think this delightful spirit was capable of much more.
Boy was I wrong.
I recently heard about a Scottish whisky maker (yes, the Scots prefer that you spell it without the ‘e’) who’s set out to turn the country’s $6 billion dollar industry into a boon for the environment as well.
Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables is using an almost-forgotten fermentation process to turn the thousands of tons of waste product left behind by the whisky into something that can run our cars. According to the company, finding a place to put all the left over draff, the residue of the grains of barley; and pot ale, a copper-laden liquid, cost Scottish whisky makers a pretty penny. But turning the waste into a desirable resource, both distillers and drivers benefit.
How will they do it? A process called ABE (for acetone-butanol-ethanol) that uses the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum to organic matter into useful industrial alcohols including biobutanol, a fuel that some say is superior to ethanol: a biofuel that, while popular, has been shown to do more harm than good.
Read more about the burgeoning whisky-waste-to-fuel industry in this National Geographic report. Then pour yourself a wee nip, and enjoy while scrolling through the infographic below and pondering this question: would American whiskey makers every consider something similar?
Infographic via Four Roses
Image via Thinkstock