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Friday, June 6, 2008

CleanTech Biofuels to Turn Dirty Diapers Into Ethanol


CleanTech Biofuels is serious about turning garbage into fuel and sincerely hopes you’ll ignore the fact that your car’s fuel tank could be carrying what’s left of little Timmy’s soiled nappies.

The company has announced that it’s investigating suitable sites for commercial garbage-to-ethanol facilities — leading baby-owners everywhere to rejoice that they may never again have to feel guilty about throwing out enough diapers each day to put the elephant in this commercial to shame (and can I just be the first to say “WTF?” to that commercial).

Over the last month CleanTech Biofuels has formed major partnerships with Green Tech America and HFTA UCal Berkeley to purchase and develop novel equipment and methods they hope will make the production of ethanol from garbage a reality. CleanTech boasts that their technology can be used to produce ethanol locally using waste that would otherwise end up in landfills — potentially reducing waste disposed of in those landfills by as much as 90%. From a recent CleanTech press release:

It is estimated that Americans [each] produce 4.4 pounds of waste per day, or 229 million tons of trash annually nationwide. This waste represents a virtually endless source of cellulosic feedstock for the production of biofuels that potentially will be available to CleanTech at almost no cost, and in some locations at a profit.

The comment about receiving feedstock at a profit is what really intrigues me. As far as I know, there are no other types of ethanol production facilities that have the potential to receive feedstock at a profit. In fact, in most cases this is a major sticking point between making cellulosic ethanol at an acceptable price and seeing dreams go down the tubes.

CleanTech isn’t alone in the push to make ethanol from waste. BlueFire Ethanol (why do all these ethanol company names have to be two words shoved together but both still capitalized?) recently announced that it will be starting construction of a facility within weeks to convert landfill waste into ethanol, and Coskata Inc. is also constructing a demonstration facility that will use municipal waste as a feedstock.

It appears that these companies are on the path to becoming major competitors. They should just merge now and avoid the future pain. CleanFireCoskataBlueTech sound like a good name to you?

The great part about making fuel from garbage is that many communities already pay fees to garbage companies to accept trash - referred to as “tipping fees.” CleanTech is looking to site their facilities in communities with favorable tipping fees, allowing them to get paid before they even start selling the ethanol.

If CleanTech or BlueFire are successful, their ethanol could be the cheapest around — and you could relax knowing that those old Pokemon cards you finally threw out might actually be doing some good.

Original here

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