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Trashing existing fuel sources could cut global emissions by 80%

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September 30, 2009

Replacing gasoline with biofuel derived from processed waste biomass could cut global emis...

Replacing gasoline with biofuel derived from processed waste biomass could cut global emissions by 80%

If there’s one thing there seems to be an endless supply of, it's garbage. The idea of turning the trash that currently ends up in landfill into a fuel to combat the growing energy crisis and tackle carbon emissions isn’t new. Companies like Waste2tricity in the UK are already looking to convert waste from business and industry into clean electricity. Now scientists in Singapore and Switzerland have added credence to the idea, saying that replacing gasoline with biofuel derived from processed waste biomass could cut global emissions by 80%.

Although biofuels may help free countries around the world from their reliance on fossil fuels, many argue the environmental advantages are offset by the increase in crop production required to meet widespread demand. According to a new study, however, second-generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol derived from processed urban waste, may offer dramatic emissions savings without the environmental catch.

"Our results suggest that fuel from processed waste biomass, such as paper and cardboard, is a promising clean energy solution," said study author Associate Professor Hugh Tan of the National University of Singapore. "If developed fully, this biofuel could simultaneously meet part of the world's energy needs, while also combating carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency."

The team used the United Nation's Human Development Index to estimate the generation of waste in 173 countries. This data was then coupled to the Earthtrends database to estimate the amount of gasoline consumed in those same countries.

The team found that 82.93 billion liters of cellulosic ethanol could be produced from the world's landfill waste and that, by substituting gasoline with the resulting biofuel, global carbon emissions could be cut by figures ranging from 29.2% to 86.1% for every unit of energy produced.

"If this technology continues to improve and mature, these numbers are certain to increase," concluded co-author Dr. Lian Pin Koh from ETH Zürich. "This could make cellulosic ethanol an important component of our renewable energy future."

The research is research published in the journal Global Change Biology: Bioenergy.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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2 Comments

very interesting article!

It would be great however to know if the fosil fuel required for the destilation of the ethanol from fermentation of the sugars obtained from waste processing is factured into the equation.

Jacob Jacobsen
30th September, 2009 @ 09:37 am PDT

Just gasify it, like used to be done at gasworks.

And don't huff the gas after (may contain Co)

Sutherland Robin
18th June, 2013 @ 06:27 pm PDT
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