How Green Is Trash? Turning Garbage to Biodiesel

The rise and fall of biodiesel was so fast, you may not have even noticed it happening.

Two years ago, the fuel market was going to be revolutionized by a process that converts corn into diesel fuel. Today many people scorn a process that takes food off plates and may actually waste more energy than it creates.

Enter Coskata Inc., which has a new process that it terms FlexEthanol. The company just announced the successful start-up of its semi-commercial facility to produce the fuel. Unlike other technologies and facilities that rely on one primary substance to produce fuel—be it corn, rapeweed, jatropha or even algae—the company’s facility will produce ethanol from numerous sources, including wood biomass, agricultural waste, construction waste and even household garbage.

The company claims that its patented microorganisms and bioreactor designs will produce ethanol for less than a dollar a gallon, about half the cost of producing a gallon of gasoline. This new technology also reduces CO2 emissions up to 96 percent compared to gasoline.

Any vehicle that can run on E85 or biodiesels should be able to use the company's product. The proof is in the gas tank, of course, and in the miles of succesful driving yet to be acomplished. Still, if the company's claims are true, biodiesel's future may be less hazy.