After years of false starts, a new industry selling motor fuel made from waste is getting a big push in the United States, with the first commercial sales possible within months. . .
Pine waste from a national forest near KL Process Design Group in Wyoming is used to make ethanol, a substitute for gasoline. Many companies have announced plans to build plants that would take in material like wood chips, garbage or crop waste and turn out motor fuels. About 28 small plants are in advanced planning, under construction or, in a handful of cases, already up and running in test mode.
The incentive to make fuel from something, anything, besides oil and food is greater than ever. Moreover, the federal government is offering grants to help plants get off the ground and subsidies for one type of fuel of $1.01 a gallon, twice the subsidy it historically offered to ethanol made from corn.
Tellingly, the type of companies placing bets on the field has started to expand. The earliest were small start-ups founded by people with more technological vision than business experience. Now some of the giants of global business, including Honeywell, Dupont, General Motors, Shell and BP, are taking stakes in the nascent industry.
The potential fuels include ethanol, which can be blended with gasoline, or other liquids that could displace gasoline or diesel entirely. Government studies suggest the country could potentially replace half its gasoline supply in this way — even more if cars became more efficient.
The government is pushing to get the industry off the ground. Legislation passed last year mandates the use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels a year by 2022, less than half of it from corn ethanol. Almost all the rest is supposed to come from nonfood sources, though the requirement could be waived if the industry faltered.
In the meantime, before you can fuel your car with a rotten banana, compost your food scraps and close the loop.