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Using Winemaking Waste For Making Fuel

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the drink-and-drive dept.

Biotech 152

Tator Tot writes "Grape pomace, the mashed up skins and stems left over from making wine and grape juice, could serve as a good starting point for ethanol production, according to a new study (from the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry). Due to growing interest in biofuels, researchers have started looking for cheap and environmentally sustainable ways to produce such fuels, especially ethanol. Biological engineer Jean VanderGheynst at the University of California, Davis, turned to grape pomace, because winemakers in California alone produce over 100,000 tons of the fruit scraps each year, with much of it going to waste."

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152 comments

You dont say? (5, Funny)

Aranykai (1053846) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760351)

Who knew a process by which the ultimate goal is to produce ethanol would be a good starting point to produce ethanol?

Re:You dont say? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760743)

Damn right. Burn the alcohol, lol. Make like 190 proof wine and torch that stuff.

Re:You dont say? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761249)

And then after they have been used to produce more ethanol (which probably is contaminated by some other things than ethanol which would make it less pleasurable to drink) the remains can be dried and then burned to produce even more energy - like heat for the distillation. The ashes can then in turn be taken back to the wineyard and used as fertilizer.

Step by step to create the full cycle. And don't forget that the same procedure can be used with other kinds of waste - like what comes from when producing corn, sugar beets, potatoes and almost any type of food. So you will increase the utilization of the crop without really using food for making ethanol.

Just notice that a lot of potential energy is wasted and literally goes down the drain at every household. But it's partly because energy still is too cheap compared to the cost to utilize the energy from waste.

then there's the methane waste from consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760355)

But that might be challenging to collect in an efficient manner.

Re:then there's the methane waste from consumption (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760385)

I've seen some internet videos that seem to suggest an efficient and funny way to deal with it is to just flare it off.

Re:then there's the methane waste from consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761357)

Other videos suggest it can be temporarily plugged, then pumped out with a piston-like device.

Doesn't look very efficient to me, but it takes all kinds, I guess.

Cali girls do like wining up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760357)

The fastest way to splay a cali girl is to pour a bottle of cheap wine (that seems expensive) down her throat.

The turn her around and give it to her from behind, ideally pushing her face into the mattress so you don't have to listen to her talk.

Grappa (5, Informative)

donscarletti (569232) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760397)

Folks have been making pomace brandys [wikipedia.org] , like grappa [wikipedia.org] for centuries. This suggestion is just to put it into an engine rather than drinking it, which many people who have tasted it would approve of.

Re:Grappa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760445)

Putting ethanol gas in a Sthil voids the warranty.

Re:Grandpappa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760971)

I wonder if putting ethanol gas in a Still would let me boil off the good stuff at the right time. Might be a quikker way to likker than a run of cornmeal and sugar.

Popcorn Sutton [suckerpunchpictures.com] will show you how to do it.

Re:Grappa (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760609)

Yeah, grappa was the first thing I thought of, too. This is just a silly idea. The yields from grappa-making are pitifully low - which helps explain why that stuff's so expensive.

Re:Grappa (4, Informative)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760845)

"...rather than drinking it, which many people who have tasted it would approve of."

Then you never had a good one.
  Try one of these:

http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/grappa+rossi+d+asiago+muscat+rosa+italy/1/-/-/r [wine-searcher.com]

Re:Grappa (2)

tinkerton (199273) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761831)

On the other hand the good ones tend to cheat by starting from the whole grape. the rule is 'The wetter the better' . Talking about the pomace here.

Re:Grappa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41762373)

Well, there's always been good vodka, and bad vodka... I guess the same can be said for any other distilled alcoholic drinks.

The comment may come from the good-drink drinkers saying "My gawd, how can you drink that stuff? You could run a diesel engine on that shit!"...and just go from there. (Diesel was inserted on purpose, it's part of the irony)

Re:Grappa (1)

Formalin (1945560) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761091)

Yeah, komovica is the first thing that came to mind - it's very similar to grappa.

All the seeds and whatnot are quite woody, so there is less room for error distilling this stuff. (the wood makes methanol).

I thought they normally fed it to pigs, if not making liquor.

Re:Grappa (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761257)

If you are going to burn the liquid it really doesn't matter if it's pure ethanol or if you also have some methanol in it. The vehicle burning it won't mind either.

Re:Grappa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761457)

Geez... any bottle of grappa you pay less than $30 for is gonna taste like rocket fuel.

Re:Grappa (1)

riprjak (158717) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761883)

You can have my Grappa when you take it from my cold, dead hands; HIPPIE!

Use corn, thats easy to grow and would just be wasted on feeding poor people otherwise!

Not a practical solution to our energy problem (5, Interesting)

hessian (467078) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760399)

I am not opposed to gathering up all the organic waste that we can, fermenting it and making alcohol. Nor am I against flushing all toilet and livestock waste into giant fermentation tanks to capture the methane energy.

However, I don't think this is a "solution" to the problem of energy in the future. It will produce some, but not all of our needs, and there will be significant energy inputs required to make it work.

I am more interested in throwing all of our spare money, time and energy into long-term solutions, like cleaner nuclear reactors, better fuel cells, solar sails and even personal methane harvesters.

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (2)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760543)

solar sails ???

I think you meant solar cells

Solar sails may work as a slow method of transportation in space (Wind from the Sun) but are not going to work on earth.
(Or even for interstellar probes, even if some think thats a Cazy Eddie idea)

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (2)

SB2020 (1814172) | about a year and a half ago | (#41762209)

Maybe he was thinking of SkySails [wikipedia.org] . Massive kites attached to cargo ships
Or, yeah, solar cells. Massively increased efficiencies for solar have been promised to be 2 years away for like the last 10 years...

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760579)

I am not opposed to gathering up all the organic waste that we can, fermenting it and making alcohol. Nor am I against flushing all toilet and livestock waste into giant fermentation tanks to capture the methane energy.

However, I don't think this is a "solution" to the problem of energy in the future. It will produce some, but not all of our needs, and there will be significant energy inputs required to make it work.

I am more interested in throwing all of our spare money, time and energy into long-term solutions, like cleaner nuclear reactors, better fuel cells, solar sails and even personal methane harvesters.

Too bad the "spare" money is going to military...

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761179)

No, entitlements are what's sucking up any "spare" money. Having the money go to the military would at least be useful and there would be R&D as well as leading edge manufacturing as a result of it. A much better use for the money than breeding another generation of parasite citizens.

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year and a half ago | (#41762131)

Simple solution: pass a bill to force the military to use only green fuels from 2022 onwards.
Well, relatively simple.

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (1)

Ironchew (1069966) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760847)

However, I don't think this is a "solution" to the problem of energy in the future. It will produce some, but not all of our needs, and there will be significant energy inputs required to make it work.

The era of plentiful natural fossil fuel reserves will end. With that in mind, we have to start thinking about liquid fuels like ethanol as energy storage. It will take significant energy input to make any highly-energy-dense substance, but we can use that process to capture vast amounts of energy (solar, nuclear fission, fusion?!?) for use in those internal-combustion clunkers.

That said, we will be far more worried about the abysmal efficiency of internal combustion engines if we think of the fuel as chemical energy storage.

Is it really waste? Fertilizer? Animal Feed? (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760897)

I am not opposed to gathering up all the organic waste that we can ...

Is it really waste? Isn't this stuff used as fertilizer or animal feed?

We may need to offset the ethanol benefits with the need to turn to big chemical and big agriculture for more fertilizer and feed.

Re:Is it really waste? Fertilizer? Animal Feed? (2)

starfishsystems (834319) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761395)

I'm glad to see you make this point. Grape pomace with its associated yeast lees is an excellent material for composting, being ideally friable and high in available energy. It accelerates the composting of less suitable materials, and goes a long way in encouraging a healthy compost ecosystem. I'm not sure that it's stable enough to recommend as animal feed in general, but I'm no expert. If it's near to hand and can be consumed within a few days, there could be value in it, though it would ideally be put in an enclosed feeder, since set out in the open it will sour quickly and give rise to impressive quantities of fruit flies.

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (1)

BigZee (769371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761975)

Your right that this alone isn't the solution. However, dealing with waste in this way is something we have to start doing. For too long we have thrown waste away. However, this waste does go somewhere and something does have to be done with it. If it's put in a landfill, it's only taking up space. Worse, it's contaminating an area of land (or sea) that causes further problems. In a reply before yours, someone suggested a complete cycle for the by products - you make wine, the waste is used to make fuel. From the waste of this process, you can make fertilizer. Cycles such as that mean that you have no waste at all. Obviously we can't apply this to every circumstance where waste is produced. However, where you can, it seems to me to be worth the effort. More than ever, with resources becoming more scarce, we have to accept the idea that something isn't waste as such but simply a by-product that has potential for further use.

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about a year and a half ago | (#41762111)

I am not opposed to gathering up all the organic waste that we can, fermenting it and making alcohol.

I know a few people who could benefit from this process.

Re:Not a practical solution to our energy problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41762479)

Personal methane harvester? Sounds uncomfortable.

drop in the bucket (4, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760405)

so the 100,000 tons, times 2000 pounds per ton, divided by 13 (as per article only half the yield of dry corns 26 lbs. per gallon ethanol), gives 15 million gallons of ethanol. the USA uses 380 million gallons of gasoline per day.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760493)

Right on. That is the first thing I thought. Thank you for doing the math and confirming it.

Also, when can we get around to getting ethanol out of the gasoline? Until we can get back gasoline, don't forget to drain your lawnmower/weed whacker of fuel over the winter, or it might not work come spring due to corrosion from ethanol.

Re:drop in the bucket (3, Funny)

grcumb (781340) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761335)

Thank you for doing the math and confirming it.

Agreed. When it comes to wine making, scientific correctness should always be our first priority. The moment I saw this headline, I thought, "I hope someone can Bacchus up on this!"

/me ducks and runs....

Re:drop in the bucket (4, Insightful)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760551)

so the 100,000 tons, times 2000 pounds per ton, divided by 13 (as per article only half the yield of dry corns 26 lbs. per gallon ethanol), gives 15 million gallons of ethanol. the USA uses 380 million gallons of gasoline per day.

Ya? and that means 15 Million less gallons of gas that would be used.

It's a start, combined with other things, would help make a dent in the usage of gas/oil.

I guess you want to wait till gas is $20 a gallon before we start using other fuels? Maybe you do. I don't drive, so I don't buy gas, so really, I don't care much, but it's this attitude that everything has to be big to be effective that is annoying.

Much like no one is going to make a WoW beater, no on is going to come up with a solution that can totally get rid of the use of gas/oil. But we can find a bunch of renewable resources that together can help a lot.

Re:drop in the bucket (3, Insightful)

kkwst2 (992504) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760801)

Oh come on.
1) as pointed out above, this is less than a drop in the bucket. I would not call that a dent.
2) It is completely unclear if this would generate any net energy. A case can be made that many of these more inefficient biofuel processes consume more energy than they produce. How does that help.
3) Most importantly, things like this distract from the ONE thing that has a real chance at reducing our dependance on oil, which is nuclear. Solar and wind might help a little, and maybe biofuels can help with energy storage, but what is described here is not a significant part of any real solution.

You can talk about little steps here and there, but it is magical thinking. If we want to get serious about reducing gas usage (I'm not getting into whether this is the right thing, that's a whole separate topic), then nuclear has to be a huge part of the solution.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761451)

1) as pointed out above, this is less than a drop in the bucket. I would not call that a dent.

So is a single oil well or a single coal mine or a single power plant. By your logic, they should each be shut down because they're such a tiny part of the whole.

2) It is completely unclear if this would generate any net energy

It doesn't have to. It's not an energy source, it's an energy storage system. It's a way to transfer energy from fixed sources into mobile energy consumers.

) Most importantly, things like this distract from the ONE thing that has a real chance at reducing our dependance on oil, which is nuclear.

I look forward to your explanation of how you plan to power your car with nuclear power. I really, really hope you're not going to claim we should put reactors in cars.

Battery technology is creeping along very, very slowly and has been for the last 50 years. We've finally reached the point where you can go all-electric in a warm climate if you have a short commute and don't mind it taking a long time to "refuel". Oooooo.

On the other hand, ethanol can actually power a car long-range and refill it quickly. Right now.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | about a year and a half ago | (#41762169)

gasoline is king. diesel's actually really good too -- higher energy density and all that, and it's less combustible.

nuclear's pretty plentiful. we throw down on some serious cutting-edge shit and we'll have a glut of cheap energy -- the nuclear waste sitting around all over? can be used to make more power! LOTS more, more than the process that created the waste generated.
just take that excess energy and poof it into some wacky hydrocarbon chains, you've got gas. it's better than ethanol. less chance of kaboom, it won't pull water out of the atmosphere.. it's just an all-around better energy storage medium. and it still beats the snot out of batteries. and will continue to, for quite some time to come.

corn ethanol is one of the biggest scams of the century >:| it's really pretty fucking horrid. in any imaginable way you can look at it, it's just a bad idea.

You do care even if you don't drive ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760807)

Actually you do care even if you don't drive ... unless you are a farmer.

If you are not a farmer/rancher just how do you think food gets to the city and suburbs? Or manufactured goods? Trains *may* get things to a regional distribution center but from there to local stores it is pretty much heavy trucks which use diesel. Petroleum costs are reflected in the price of food and manufactured goods.

FWIW, the Pickens Plan is interesting in that these heavy trucks could be converted to natural gas. Their routes and fueling is somewhat centralized so the necessary infrastructure would be easier to implement compared to autos. Supposedly these trucks are currently responsible for 15% of our petroleum consumption.

Re:drop in the bucket (2)

Gertlex (722812) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760841)

This is too small of a fix to be worthwhile, most likely. 15 million gallons... per YEAR is 0.01% of 380 million * 365 days.

I have to imagine there are so many alternative things to invest in that would make more than a 0.01% dent.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760911)

so the 100,000 tons, times 2000 pounds per ton, divided by 13 (as per article only half the yield of dry corns 26 lbs. per gallon ethanol), gives 15 million gallons of ethanol. the USA uses 380 million gallons of gasoline per day.

Ya? and that means 15 Million less gallons of gas that would be used.

It's a start, combined with other things, would help make a dent in the usage of gas/oil.

I guess you want to wait till gas is $20 a gallon before we start using other fuels? Maybe you do. I don't drive, so I don't buy gas, so really, I don't care much, but it's this attitude that everything has to be big to be effective that is annoying.

Much like no one is going to make a WoW beater, no on is going to come up with a solution that can totally get rid of the use of gas/oil. But we can find a bunch of renewable resources that together can help a lot.

I'd like to know where you got your conversion from gallons of ethanol:gallons of gasoline. Because last time I checked, ethanol contained less energy per gallon than gasoline, equating to less efficiency; thus 15 million gallons of ethanol does less than 15 million gallons of gasoline

http://www.hho4free.com/gasoline_vs_ethanol.htm [hho4free.com]

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2011/01/the-great-ethanol-debate/index.htm [consumerreports.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel#Ethanol-based_engines [wikipedia.org]

I sure hope you know something I don't.

Re:drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760999)

I don't drive, so I don't buy gas, so really, I don't care much

You should care. It really is a big deal that directly affects you.

How do you think the computing device you are using got to you?
The parts for it, how about them?
What about the food you eat?
If the price of transport goes up what will happen to those things?

I don't expect many goods to be transported by anything but devices that burn dinosaurs for decades after people make the switch.

Re:drop in the bucket (2)

macbeth66 (204889) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761181)

I don't drive, so I don't buy gas, so really, I don't care much...

Ah, but you see, you should care. Regardless of how much fuel you, personally, use, fuel contributes to the cost of everything you buy. Those Birkenstocks don't get delivered to your local store by storks. Even if they were, you'd have to feed them. That food has to be harvested... blah, blah, blah... I'm boring myself now, so I'm gonna go for a little drive.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761323)

I don't drive, so I don't buy gas, so really, I don't care much, but it's this attitude that everything has to be big to be effective that is annoying.

$20 gas is still going to hurt you, as the price of transporting everything will cost that much more. The price of everything will go up.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#41762397)

I don't drive, so I don't buy gas, so really, I don't care much, but it's this attitude that everything has to be big to be effective that is annoying.

$20 gas is still going to hurt you, as the price of transporting everything will cost that much more. The price of everything will skyrocket.

FTFY

Re:drop in the bucket (4, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760623)

And? It's essentially free, other than the cost of the actual process. Free raw materials might make it economically viable *now*.

No single solution is going to solve our problems. Even biofuel in general isn't a complete solution. But do the math for this, plus dozens of other types of biofuels, plus geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal, wind, solar, hydrogen fuel cells, and potentially nuclear fission and fusion. See if those can replace coal, oil and natural gas.

Re:drop in the bucket (3, Insightful)

Freddybear (1805256) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760833)

It won't stay free if it's an economically viable source of energy. Just like restaurants which used to pay to dispose of used fry oil now charge for it.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760993)

To extend on GP's title,

Yes, it's just a drop in the bucket. But given enough drips, the bucket will fill.

Re:drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761405)

Nuclear is the single solution that can solve all of our problems. 100% Nuclear means 100% clean plentiful cheap energy. With Nuclear we can even afford to be inefficient and do things like turn the Nuclear energy into chemically stored energy for our transportation needs. With cheap plentiful energy we can do anything. And with a completely nuclear based energy grid (and standardized reactor designs) all of the problems we currently face with waste handling, storage and recycling can be solved using large scale solutions.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761467)

Nuclear fission is, at least in my opinion, the least-acceptable technology that is still acceptable. It produces non-trivial waste, it is not infinitely renewable, and it is rather dangerous. It's better than coal/oil/gas, definitely, and we should be expanding on it because it's one of the few "green" techs that is proven to work large-scale.

But, if there are any better alternatives, even if they cannot supply 100% of our power, I believe they are well worth investigating. Geothermal is superior if you're in a region that can use it, as is hydroelectric*. Tidal seems likely to be a similar solution - good in areas that can use it, but unable to work universally. Wind and solar are currently not very efficient, and cannot be used for base load, but by happy coincidence the peak hours for solar are roughly the peak hours for energy consumption. It's a good supplement, at least. And, in the long term (over centuries, not years), fission does enough damage that it might be more logical to avoid it.

And nuclear fusion has the potential to be precisely what you described - too cheap to even meter. It just has the teeny-tiny problem of not actually working. Yet.

* A little idea of mine is to pair nuclear fission with hydro plants, where possible. Put the reactors upstream of the hydro dam, on the reservoir that it creates. This gives you a large supply of cooling water, and if there's ever a leak, you have a controlled point to try to filter it. If something goes wrong, you have power from one to try to help the other (this mainly helps the nuke plant - if the reactor goes to shit, you can run the cooling pumps off power from the hydro plant). And at night, when the reactor is producing more than enough power for your needs, you can use that extra power to pump water back up the dam, turning your artificial lake into a sort of battery - this is done already, but not necessarily with closely-located plants. The only downside I can see is that if the *dam* fails catastrophically, you just lost your coolant water for the reactors.

Re:drop in the bucket (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760949)

Our fossil fuel use also dwarfs the production of any particular oil well. By your argument, each well should be evaluated in isolation, found insignificant, and shut down.

No Officer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760409)

I'm not drunk of my ass, what you smell is the car....

Pomace brandy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760419)

Why waste it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomace_brandy

I would love to make a joke about this but... (1)

issicus (2031176) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760421)

the the statuesque rules . If you can make it work great. but no one else cares.

Ethanol isn't sustainable (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760433)

There is no way to ever produce enough to replace gasoline. Right now 40% of our corn stock is, by federal law, ground up and turned into Ethanol, and it manages to offset about 15% of gasoline. We could turn our entire yearly production of grown food into ethanol production and still fall short. It isn't a sustainable technology, no matter how much waste, byproduct, etc., is produced. There simply isn't enough land to make it. Oil took millions of years to create, and was formed from the organic waste of the entire planet. We'll have depleted that million-plus year stock in just under 100 years.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760523)

The problem here is that you are only counting food biomass, and extrapolating a definitive conclusion from it that ethanol in general cannot provide 100% fuel requirements.

Yearly, a single suburban home will produce several hundred pounds of lawn clippings, the primary components of which are cellulose and water. Other sources are ornamental tree trimmings, and waste paper pulp products.

Even if cellulosic ethanol cannot be efficiently industrialized, there re other processes to convert carbohydrates into combustible fuels, such as gassification. (Essentially, burning inefficiently in the pesence of water to create carbon monoxide and hydrogen gasses, the combination of which can be catalytically converted into methane, or burned directly as syngas as-is. Some of the stored energy is lost as heat in the reaction, but the same is true of yeast process ethanol, where energy is lost to the mtabolic requirements of the yeast organisms.)

Efficient collection of domestic lawn waste for fuel synthesis kills 2 birds with one stone, as lawn waste is a considerable component of average consumer refuse, which causes many problems for landfills and waste management efforts. Removing it from the waste stream for fuel use is a no brainer, but we simply don't do it.

Discounting this surce of biomass from inclusion in the ethanol calculation is disingenuous.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (4, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760887)

Yearly, a single suburban home will produce several hundred pounds of lawn clippings, the primary components of which are cellulose and water. Other sources are ornamental tree trimmings, and waste paper pulp products.

I think you flunked earth sciences. The lawn needs those things; It composts and reduces to fertilizer for the next year. Same with leaves and such. The reason our crop yields are falling and most of our cities are basically slabs of clay with a few inches of top soil over the top is because we're constantly trimming, mowing, and raking away all the nutrients that the plants need to survive and replacing it with pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, and all manner of chemicals that are dangerous to us.

I'm not discounting the source: I'm simply pointing out it's already marked for a different use, courtesy mother nature. Ethanol is a supportive technology, like solar, wind, or hydroelectric. But it can't replace the fuels in our vehicles because there's no way to produce enough of it to completely offset oil. In fact, all the alternative energy technologies that are commercially feasible can't do it. It's called energy density, and so far we haven't been able to find a fuel that has both high energy density and a low conversion cost that can match dead dino fuel. Some of them have reached the point where they may be useful for daily commutes in an urban environment, but there is nothing yet created that I can put 80 pounds of it in my car and drive 400 miles, and then stop, wait for 5 minutes to refuel, and then continue. The few technologies that offer decent conversion efficiency and energy density usually have significant drawbacks. Natural gas, for example, has to be compressed to several hundred PSI in order to get a reasonable amount into a car. At those pressures, a hairline fracture in the tank will not only destroy the car, but anyone within a hundred feet of it... I'm not sure I like the idea of riding a bomb to work every day. That's just one example; there are many others, but they all suffer from the same physics problem: Energy density and conversion efficiency.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761281)

Naw, didn't fail earth sciences. Just pointing out what is routinely done. (People routinely discarded lawn waste before the widespread use of mulching mowers. I remember the 1980s quite well.)

The issue is indeed what you state; density. You can convert biomass into syngas very easily, just seal the canister and heat it with a solar concetrator. But the resulting syngas has only half the energy density of natural gas.

You can take the syngas, add more energy, and get methane.

You can take the methane, add more energy and processing, and get gasoline.

The problem is that the latter two steps require energy. (Even using solar to provide it using things like concentrators imposes very pernicious restrains.)

Syngas could power electric power plants though with the minimal first stage processing. It would actually be cleaner to burn than gassified coal, due to the absence of radio isotopes, and sulfur compounds. Supply a pipeline, and its golden. (This way you avoid the dangers of liquified petrolium gas storage.)

Collecting city leaflitter, unrecycleable paper and plastic products (diapers, etc.), limb trimmings, and wet municaple garbage, and running it through a gassification plant for power generation frees up other oil commodities. (These are items that end up in landfills. The gassification plant does not produce charcoal. It produces mineral ash, which is a salable product, though it may have problems with heavy metals.)

By generating energy that way for electrical power, you suppliment what you can get from pure solar. If you can get ubiquitous electrical power from the AC mains, then synthetic pretroleum production starts looking viable. (Petroleum for transportation, not power generation, since we already have that.)

The question is if enough syngas can be produced to power a major city's power grid, from that city's waste stream. That I don't know.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761441)

No it cannot, not even close, and the infrastructure both logistical and material required for such an undertaking would be prohibitive. What do you not understand. Bio-fuel non-sense cannot not work in the modern world ever no matter how much you want it to.

Unless of course you want to cull 80% of the population. Then the survivors can build a bio-fuel, solar and wind powered paradise where a third of the population works at energy production.

I would rather drop a few advanced nuclear reactors and watch how society advances with plentiful practically free energy.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41762145)

I thought petrol/ diesel were hydrocarbons, ie made exclusively out of carbon and hydrogen.

The lawn clippings have additional ingredients, such as oxygen and nitrogen. Presumably these would be left-over products in any biofuel process, and could be converted back into fertiliser and returned to your lawn (courtesy of a big truck running on carbon-neutral lawn-clippings-biofuel).

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (3, Insightful)

pnot (96038) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760545)

There is no way to ever produce enough to replace gasoline.

Who are you arguing with? Neither TFA nor TFS makes that claim. It's a description of a technique for turning a particular class of waste into a useful product, not a turnkey solution to the energy crisis.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760663)

I don't see the problem. We don't have to replace gasoline, simply reduce how much we use. If we make enough ethanol to offset 15% of our gasoline usage, just sell gasoline with 15% ethanol. In fact, it's such a good idea that they already do it in many places.

Why put ethanol in gasoline? It displaces the heavy metals and other pollutants that would otherwise be in the gas, it increases the octane number, and it reduces our dependence on fossil fuels.

dom

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (2, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760717)

Ethanol is bad for engines. While chances are it isn't going to destroy your modern car's engine, good luck getting your chainsaw, mower, etc. or if you store fuel long-term (backup generators, etc.)

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (4, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760991)

Ethanol is bad for engines. While chances are it isn't going to destroy your modern car's engine, good luck getting your chainsaw, mower, etc. or if you store fuel long-term (backup generators, etc.)

How does stuff like this get upvoted? No, ethanol is not "bad for engines", any more than gas, or butanol, or diesel is!

It's true that ethanol can do some minor damage (such as dissolve some carburetor seals) in cars not made to take ethanol, but all cars sold in the USA for the past few decades won't have a problem at all with ethanol. And it's not that ethanol is particularly bad, it's simply that soft rubber gaskets were originally designed with the assumption that ONLY gasoline was going to be used and so didn't bother to check for other types of decomposition. Further, this problem is only seen with long-term use, not occasional use.

I've used ethanol mix fuel many times in my Briggs and Stratton lawn mower as far back as the 90s, never had a problem. Also, ALL gasoline will go bad after a while, (often just a few months) due to evaporation, oxidation, and biological decomposition (Yes, there are bacteria that eat gasoline) among other things. You can use a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-Bil to make your gas last longer.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (1)

bunbuntheminilop (935594) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761025)

Gasoline is bad for lawnmower engines too, unless you add oil to the gasoline in your 2 stroke mower!

Point being, the engine is designed with the fuel in mind. If I want to use another fuel, I should consider buying another lawn mower. If I put something into the tank that it wasn't designed for, I shouldn't be angry at the fuel!

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (1)

knarf (34928) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761899)

Nonsense. Apart from dissolving some (generally older) gaskets/seals/paints and the varnish left by previously used petrol, ethanol is no worse for engines than fossil hydrocarbon distillate fuels (eg. petrol). In some ways it is actually better as it burns cleaner and is less likely to clog up the engine with carbon deposits.

Ethanol can also be used in two-stroke engines as long as a suitable lubricant is provided (either pre-mix or post-mix). The exhaust fumes from ethanol are less noxious than those of petrol, which makes it a good alternative for eg. chainsaws and weed cutters.

Unfortunately there is an incredible amount of disinformation on this subject on the 'net, your post is just one example of such. There seems to something close to religious fervour when it comes to debating the pros and cons of biofuels vs. fossil fuels (imagine the discussions which would erupt over fossil-fueled iProducts vs. biofueled Androids... now that would be something to behold...).

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760733)

Nothing is ever "sustainable". Oil isn't "sustainable", coal isn't "sustainable", solar panels aren't "sustainable", wind isn't "sustainable", nuclear isn't "sustainable". But what everyone who is focused on sustainability ignores is that technology changes and habits change. If we ever do start running out of a resource there is much more motivation to create real solutions to get around it. We aren't going to wake up one morning, check on Facebook and see that the world's oil supply is gone and there's no more gas to put in our cars. That won't happen. Instead, if oil starts to get truly scarce (which it isn't currently and won't be for another couple hundred years) we'll move on to a different energy source. 300 years ago we could say that today we'd run out of grazing ground for horses in 2012 if things kept going the way they were going. But things change. Don't underestimate humans, if there is really a problem, it will get fixed.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761469)

Actually modern humans have never had to deal with a significant resource crisis. In general the historical way in which we have "fixed" diminishing resources is to kill large numbers of people who live on the other side of our borders.

Re:Ethanol isn't sustainable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41762123)

Oh for fuck's sake stop it, just STOP IT! We had this in the fuel-from-air thread last week. Every single time we get an article about how some waste or by-product can be used to make fuel, or some other new energy advance, a whole gibbering heap of morons crawls out of the woodwork to say "but this will never produce enough energy to power the entire world..."

WE KNOW! WE DON'T CARE! Guess what? The world doesn't run on one single power source now, and we don't expect it to do so in future. We want lots of different approaches that can suit different uses, and can all be used concurrently to solve or partially solve our energy needs until we invent sustainable fusion or whatever it is you're holding out for.

So wine by-products can only generate 0.01% of our biofuel needs. No problem. Used coffee grounds can generate another 0.01%. Soya bean husks 0.01% Banana peels 0.01% Wheat stalks 0.02% Used cooking oil 0.05%. Sewage 0.5%... There are thousands of different industrial processes producing waste biomass, stuff that is currently thrown away, that could be turned into carbon-neutral biofuel. We chip away at them one by one, add them all up and hey, guess what, suddenly we're only pumping a fraction of the crude out of the ground that we used to! Maybe we could even, eventually, reduce it to zero! Marvellous, huh? Cheap, clean fuel for everyone. Everybody in the entire world (except for a tiny minority of oil tycoons that will have a hard time getting any sympathy from me) benefits.

So please, please please please, can we just mod into oblivion every single post like this in every future thread about a marginal new part-solution to our energy crisis?

It is called Grappa (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760435)

Very old technology. Tastes like nice jet fuel. See Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, Or. for a good example.

Alcohol Abuse!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760437)

The must must be distilled to make grappa [wikipedia.org] , the swill that kept me sane in Sicily.

grappa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41760455)

Waste? Isn't that where the grappa comes from????

Routine byproduct (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760507)

That's routine for anything that's a fermentation process. California's biggest cheese factory has a sizable ethanol output. Anheuser-Busch is trying to find some way to turn brewery waste into something useful.

It's a marginal business, You start with huge volumes of soggy biomass and try to extract something useful without using too much energy. Then you're left with a smaller amount of soggy biomass that's even less useful than what came in. That has to go somewhere.

There's a vast amount of agricultural waste available at low, low prices if you can find some way to use it. Straw, bagasse (the leftover part of sugar cane), nut hulls, brewers's mash, corn husks, cobs, and stalks - it's out there in bulk. The hope of cellulostic ethanol conversion was to convert some of the cellulose into fuel. So far, it doesn't pay, and it's hard to even get out more energy than goes in. Work continues.

Re:Routine byproduct (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760593)

Not true. You can do it if you don't mind working with potentially toxic gasses.

Syngas, for instance.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syngas [wikipedia.org]

basically, load the soggy biomass into a crucible furnace, seal it down tight, point a solar concentrator at it, collect the gas. Profit.

Re:Routine byproduct (1)

avandesande (143899) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761555)

I know the mash left over from beer production goes into animal feed- I doubt the grape stuff goes to waste either.

Over looked sources (1, Interesting)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760677)

You can add in regular grape juice pulp to that mix. Just image all the over ripe fruit that your average super market throws out a week and add that in as well. The fundamental problem is we designed our society to run on casually wasting resources. Nature wastes nothing, in effect we waste everything. Traditionally we had one source for waste, the dump. Nature recycles all waste while recycling is blow off largely as a hyppie/tree hugger invention. The two best sources for methane are chicken and pig waste so what do we do? Most of it ends up in our rivers and streams while chicken and hog farmers are living just above minimum wage. Most chicken and hog farms could power dozens and in some cases hundreds of houses. The broken down waste could fertilize fields instead of petroleum. We worry about what gets us through the next 24 hours and ignore out kids and grandkids. If we worried more about the next generations most of our problems would vanish in a single generation. Our current society can't last more than a generation or two, the math simply doesn't work, so most of us will live to see it collapse unless we change. Change isn't a matter of if but when. Forget iPads in a generation or two you'll be worried about food and water. Look at it this way, in the past we kept a year's worth of grain in reserve. We now have three months and we just got hit with a drought. A large percentage of the ground water is polluted already and fracking will pollute a lot of what's left. Project this just ten years into the future and you'll be waiting on the corn harvest to buy a bag of corn chips and you'll be enjoying toilet to tap because hey it's all you can get other than bottled water that costs more than gasoline.

Re:Over looked sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761211)

In many cases, the waste is already being used to fertilize fields. The problem is that in some areas there are more hog/fowl producers than there are other farms that can use it. Many areas are also setting up confinement building waste digesters as a way to generate electricity to reduce their power bills or to sell power back to the utility. My father set one up years ago before he passed away.

facts (1, Interesting)

swell (195815) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760679)

Since they don't provide any useful facts, allow me to insert pseudo facts to fill the gap.

First, the words 'especially ethanol' ring a bit hollow due to the low fuel efficiency and great cost in terms of equipment, raw materials, etc relative to petroleum. Reserve the word 'especially' for biodiesel- a much more promising but still long term project.

Now if we start with 100k tons of grape stuff and push our imaginations to the extreme, let's suppose that will support 100k vehicles. That would be 2% of the vehicles in California (pseudo facts, remember). The land, plant and equipment to process the grape stuff will cost $23M (partly offset by generous federal grants but encumbered with additional costs for environmental studies, protests and court hearings). Assuming that the equipment works and the private enterprise receiving the grant money hasn't absconded with the money or cut corners on costs, we now have one hundred thousand vehicles operating for, say, five years at an annual fuel cost of $__________ . What's the point of doing the math when the numbers are fake?

Ennywhey it looks like a boondoggle to me. Only the Governor's friend who gets the grant money will be happy with the results.

Duh ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760767)

Grape pomace, the mashed up skins and stems left over from making wine and grape juice, could serve as a good starting point for ethanol production

No shit guys. It's called Grappa [wikipedia.org] , and the Italians have been doing it for centuries:

Grappa is an alcoholic beverage, a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy of Italian origin that contains 35%-60%

My wife says it tastes like jet fuel, but it's an acquired taste. :-P

Did someone think they've discovered something new?

How about that! (2)

wiegeabo (2575169) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760913)

It's the perfect combination of drinking and driving!

Re:How about that! (1)

SpaceCracker (939922) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761749)

Great, now we're gonna have drunken people driving drunken cars.
--
Wife: "I smell alcohol. Have you been drinking again?"
Husband: "No dear, it's the car."
--
Police officer: "Sir, I'm going to ask your car to drive in a straight line and blow some fumes into this exhaustalyzer."

Look at it another way (4, Interesting)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760945)

Even if you are only getting half the alcohol as corn this is a waste product so it's not taking anything away from the food supply. This would offset 50,000 tons of corn just for California alone. Remember grapes are commonly grown all along both the east and west coasts from California to Washington state and from Florida to coastal Maine. The total supply has to be several times that. We're talking several hundred thousand tons that would offset easily a 100,000 tons of corn. The scary thing is I just did the math and 14 million tons of corn are used for ethanol. Recycling waste is important but it won't offset 1% of the corn used now. This isn't because corn is superior, it's a poor source of ethanol, but the massive corn subsidies mean the only practical source for ethanol is corn. Sorghum is a better sugar crop, it grows on poor soil and uses little water. Replace all the corn being grown for ethanol with sorghum and you use less water and less fertilizer and probably get twice the ethanol. Sadly there's no massive sorghum lobby. Other waste sources are maple sugar production, honey production and apple pulp and peels as well as other fruit waste. We can probably replace 10% of the corn from other sources then if we switch to better sources like Sorghum we could double the ethanol output without reducing the food supply. When they say biofuels are no replacement they ignore the fact that the northern states can grow sugar beets as well as some types of sorghum. Increase flowering plants and raise more bees and the honey can be used for biofuels. With some creativity and effort we could replace half the petroleum with either ethanol or methane based bio-gas. Increase efficiency by a 100% which is possible and we no longer need fossil fuels. This ignores electric cars running off wind and solar. We can fix the mess we just need the will.

Nuclear energy and electric cars are the future (1)

OhPlease (790364) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760957)

Bio Fuels of this kind still require enormous effort and land areas to produce. I don't understand why environmentalists would back corn being used for making fuel. There is nothing as destructive to the environment as depriving plants and animals of habitat (place and space to live). All those corn fields take up huge areas of land. I once saw a documentary about wolves establishing them selves in the area around Chernobyl. The wolves were thriving despite the high radiation levels. Without humans taking up land for agriculture an entire ecosystem established quickly, overcoming a nuclear disaster. And it makes sense, for the first time all those little animals in the ecosystem had the space and place to live. Where ever we plant corn, pretty much, nothing else can live. Nuclear energy and electric cars are the future. Nuclear energy production takes up very little space, and is by far, less destructive of the environment. Bio Fuels of this kind still require enormous effort and land areas to produce.

Re:Nuclear energy and electric cars are the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761243)

If you actually believe "Where ever we plant corn, pretty much, nothing else can live", you haven't lived in any of the areas were corn is actually grown. There are lots of animals that thrive there. Using waste products for bio fuel is ok, converting food stock isn't.

Re:Nuclear energy and electric cars are the future (2)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761273)

Bio Fuels of this kind still require enormous effort and land areas to produce.

The whole point of something like this is to utilize waste, which means that we aren't giving up food production or having to cultivate more land in order to make the fuel. I'll agree that corn is stupid, but this is using wine waste - IE grape stuff. Most true environmentalists don't back corn at all, they know how stupid it is. However the corn lobby is powerful and has 'Environmentalists' on it's payroll. Ethanol production from corn has gotten a lot more efficient, but it needs to be an OOM or so, and a plant that can achieve that wouldn't be 'corn' anymore. I'm not convinced of ethanol's suitability as a fuel anyways.

I once saw a documentary about wolves establishing them selves in the area around Chernobyl. The wolves were thriving despite the high radiation levels. Without humans taking up land for agriculture an entire ecosystem established quickly, overcoming a nuclear disaster.

To be fair, 'high radiation levels' are relative. There's actually areas of higher natural radiation that have been occupied by humans for centuries. Radiation is a complex and stiff not fully understood science. Wolves give birth to multiple pups anyways, so as long as the birth defect rate is only a little higher, they can still survive just fine. They're also not living directly in the sarcophagus, unlike some birds. In the birds case though, often they'll lay 4-6 eggs only expecting 1 to survive - a deformed chick just means it's tossed out of the nest by competing chicks faster.

And it makes sense, for the first time all those little animals in the ecosystem had the space and place to live.

Hardly the 'first time', I'd think. They used to have it before humans came, before we developed agriculture, etc...

Where ever we plant corn, pretty much, nothing else can live. Nuclear energy and electric cars are the future. Nuclear energy production takes up very little space, and is by far, less destructive of the environment. Bio Fuels of this kind still require enormous effort and land areas to produce.

Plenty of wildlife can live around corn. Just ask the farmers about turkeys and deer. But I agree; we need something other than corn. Right now my theory is mostly electric cars backed up by biodiesel produced from algae farms in the desert for remaining liquid fuel needs.

Re:Nuclear energy and electric cars are the future (1)

OhPlease (790364) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761547)

Sorry, I should have been more specific. A corn field can support wildlife, for sure. But corn fields are usually planted on land that in natural state would be a forest or grass land. I'm pretty sure that a forest is at least and order or two more diverse than a corn field. My whole point is that its hugely damaging to the biodiversity of the world to destroy forests and replace them with corn fields to make fuel. The equivalent amount of energy can be produced in Nuclear power plants, taking up almost no land. Where I live, only about 5% of the land remains in a semi wild state. The rest is taken up for use by humans. As stewards of this planet, it is extremely greedy for us to take up so much land. The smart phone and tablets became viable only when we developed very energy efficient components and better batteries. The better way forward is to concentrate on improving our cars. Cheap electric scooters are already breaking through as a viable mode of transportation for many people.

Re:Nuclear energy and electric cars are the future (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | about a year and a half ago | (#41761481)

No, electric cars are not the future. At least not a future that is anywhere near.

Batteries are the problem. Battery technology is creeping along very, very, very, very slowly. And has been for 50 years.

We've finally reached the point where an all-electric car is practical....in a warm climate....if you have a short commute....and you don't mind long recharge time.

Practical all-electric cars that work for almost everyone are decades off because batteries to power such vehicles are decades off.

Far more practical is to use the energy from nuclear/solar/wind/whatever to produce a chemical fuel that then is burned in vehicles. Yes, it's less efficient. But we can do it today.

All I can say is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761045)

I approve!

ummm that's Grappa, aka Palinka, aka Bagasse, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761319)

ummm that's Grappa, aka Palinka, aka Bagasse, etc.
It's the most commonly known manner of producing hard-alcohol in Europe.

Wrong Way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41761991)

Grape skins are valuable in human food products. We should not allow food produts to be used to power vehicles but insist that the fields used to grow food stay dedicated to produce food and no other tasks. Food prices are already a disaster. The last thing our nation needs is to convert food crops to fuel and then have the corporations shipping that fuel offshore.

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