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Got Garbage? Need Fuel? Print E-mail


Here's an idea to solve the ever-increasing problem of municipal waste and simultaneously develope an alternative fuel. Two birds with one economic stone!

Many countries use a system to convert garbage into methane and then use the methane to operate municipal vehicles, and use what's left as aggregate in concrete construction block, roadworks, etc. However, the methane fuel must be compressed into cylinders, much like propane (expensive and not without risk), and the standard automotive engine must be converted to operate methane, incurring more expense.

Since most of the cars we have today operate on a liquid fuel, such as gasoline or diesel, it's more sensible to convert the garbage to alcohol. For those who don’t believe alcohol is a viable fuel, remember that the fastest cars in the world such as Grand Prix, Formula One, drag-racers, and other forms of competition vehicles all run on alcohol. All that is needed to convert a gasoline engine to alcohol is to advance the timing a few degrees and run larger jets in the carburetor - a minor adjustment.

Critics point out that alcohol absorbs water and yes, it does in fact pull moisture from the atmosphere. However if neat alcohol (200 Proof) or close, is being used, performance will only be affected positively, because the absorbed moisture will in fact increase power. The problem of absorbed moisture only arises with gasohol, where water mixes with the alcohol, but not with the gasoline; this has a deleterious effect on the performance of the mixed fuel.

Since there's no water problem with a straight alcohol fuel, here's my idea. We know there are many people living in abject poverty, sorting through gigantic garbage dumps (think of Brazil, Indonesia, India) trying to exist on what they can find by selling or using our waste. So why not give them a job with a living wage and some dignity, doing what they are doing anyway BUT separating the garbage into recyclables (metals, glass,plastics, etc) and putting the remainder aside to make alcohol for fuel? At least 60% of municipal garbage is cellulose, (paper, cardboard, vegetable matter), so this should be sufficient to power all existing municipal vehicles currently using methane.

After processing, the state or municipality can sell the recovered glass, metals, plastic, and other by-products to cover costs. An extra benefit, at no extra cost, would be the reduction of landfills, pyramiding, and the practice of throwing valuable resources into the rivers (as is obviously the current practice), to pollute our oceans. Thus, in the event of an oil embargo or some other disruption of the fossil fuel supply, at least ambulances and other emergency vehicles would still keep rolling. It will never be less expensive than it is now to build these facilities, so let's start now.

There are two bacteria that work very well together to ferment our garbage and break down the cellulose into the simple sugars comprising cellulose, and they do it at higher temperatures than yeast fermentation (up to 170F or 77C). This not only reduces the chance of contamination by other organisms that do not thrive at these higher temperatures, but also increases the PH range over that required for yeast fermentation, eliminates the use of acids to break down the cellulose into sugar, and makes it possible to convert garbage on a large scale in a continuous high temperature commercial operation. These two bacteria have monikers that are just as interesting as their functions; thermoanaerbactoreanolicus and clostridium thermocellum.

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