Local company creates fuel from garbage

February 8, 2008 8:25:26 AM PST
A major component of the Chicago Auto Show 2008 is vehicles that reduce dependency on foreign oil. A local suburban company is playing a prominent role, creating fuel from garbage! Everywhere you look, at the Chicago Auto Show, you'll see alternative fuel vehicles from hybrids to flex fuel cars that use e85. Most ethanol in the U.S. is produced from corn. Because that's a limited resource, General Motors has partnered with Coskata, a renewable energy company based in Warrenville, Ill., to produce ethanol from other, more abundant products, including garbage!

"We heat the materials up to a level where they decompose into carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide and it doesn't matter if it is baby diapers, tires or wood, the decomposition products in this thermal process are these same gases. We cool the gases down and feed the gases to our micro-organisms; they are very interesting bugs, they breathe the gases in and they exhale ethanol!" said Bill Roe, Coskata president and CEO.

The cost to produce ethanol from these waste products is half of what it costs to produce gasoline. Officials hope that would offset the reduction in mileage -- 25-percent less than with gasoline.

With so much emphasis on flex fuel this year, will these vehicles will replace other fuel saving technologies?

"The answer is no. Every single one of these technologies is going to be needed; our country is consuming about a hundred and forty billion gallons of energy annually and it's only going up, so you need electrification, you need battery operated vehicles, you need fuel cell vehicles," said Mary Beth Stanek, director of Energy and Environment Policy, GM.

As of this year, gm has 3 million flex fuel vehicles on the road in the U.S. If you have a flex fuel vehicle, next time you fill up, you could be saving energy, and the environment...and that's not just a bunch of garbage!