From Trash to Transportation Fuel

In a world gridlocked with cars and gas-guzzling SUVs how can we meet our fuel needs?

According to David Tilman and other researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE), biofuels, or fuels made from plant materials, are possible substitutes for fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel. In a July 2009 Science article, scientists identify five sources that can produce large amounts of biofuels without destroying natural habitat or using land needed to raise crops and cattle for food.

“We need to transition away from using food for biofuels toward more sustainable feedstocks that can be produced with much less impact on the environment.” Jason Hill, University of Minnesota

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s TreasureCrop waste, plants grown on abandoned land, and trash, are all possible sources of biofuels.
Crop waste, plants grown on abandoned land, and trash, are all possible sources of biofuels.Courtesy University of California Berkeley News

Many people think of waste and abandoned land as useless, or they don’t think about it at all. However, scientists at IonE propose turning what we think of as waste into sources of biofuels. This includes crop waste like corn stalks and straw from wheat and rice, forest waste like branches and pulp from trees cut for wood and paper, plants grown on abandoned cropland, and crops planted and harvested before the growing season of food crops. Researchers even believe we can use municipal and industrial waste. That’s right, garbage! How? Think about your own trash--it’s full of food and other organic waste, paper, cardboard and plastics, all of which we can turn into fuel.

The Basics and Benefits of Biofuels

What are the benefits of biofuels?

Biofuels are renewable and can be used to run automobiles without adding as much greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as fossil fuels.

What are the benefits of using waste for biofuel?

Using waste for biofuels reduces the amount of land needed to grow other sources of biofuels. Clearing land to grow other biofuel sources like corn or soybeans takes up land used by wildlife or needed to grow food crops.

Are there other things we can do in our everyday lives to slow the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere?

Yes. By using less energy and fuel we can help lower greenhouse gas production. We can do this by carpooling, buying fuel-efficient cars, using public transportation, riding a bicycle, or walking to get around.

What The Future Holds…

Scientists estimate that 500 million tons of waste from the sources above could be produced per year in the U.S. With support and proper production, renewable waste-based biofuels have the potential to replace fossil fuels and improve the future of our environment. Imagine filling your gas tank and knowing that we are using our trash to protect the planet that we treasure.

“Future carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will tell us when we’re kidding ourselves about what actually works. For carbon management, the atmosphere is the ultimate accountant.” Robert Socolow, Princeton University

For more information see: IonE Press Release

Peter Parker en Espanol yo's picture
Peter Parker en Espanol yo says:

i think that that is a great idea because it will help us know that we need to recycle!!! :)

posted on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 12:09pm

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