Yes, if you ever wondered why you often see cows passed out under trees when you drive down the highway, here’s your answer. Some of them have been chowing down on waste yeast, which is sold to farmers as cow feed. With an alcohol content of up to 8%, that’s quite a kick!
Let’s amble under the fold and see how green beer-making is going to put an end to this bovine drunkenness – and perhaps even save the planet as well.
Green Beer: From Waste to Ethanol
The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is one beer maker with a long history in green. Now they’re taking it to the next level. Sierra produces 1.6 million gallons of “bottom of the barrel” waste yeast every year. Instead of sending it out for cows to guzzle, the brewery is going to use a portable refiner, made by a company called E-Fuel, to convert the waste to ethanol.
Green Beer vs. Clean Coal
E-Fuel’s little carbon-cutting device is about the size of a household appliance. That doesn’t seem like much, when you consider the global proportions of the problems we face. In fact, it sounds pretty dull compared to the “clean coal” research that’s going into carbon capture and sequestration, with its promise of massive-scale reduction of carbon emissions.
Green Beer Wins!
Well, actually, there’s a catch to sequestration. When you factor in the massive amount of money, energy, materials, and infrastructure that full-scale sequestration requires…eh. Not so sexy. Add the other destructive consequences of coal power, such as mountaintop removal, fly ash disposal, and mine fires… nope, doesn’t turn me on.
Sure, as long as we have coal-fired power plants today, let’s try to make them less nasty. As for tomorrow, the real focus of our time and money should be on developing new ways to cut our use of coal altogether. That means point-source solutions, like energy efficient buildings, waste reduction, and on-site generation. In that regard, a refinery the size of a household appliance seems…alluring. Especially if it helps all those poor cows sober up.
h/t to Green Car Congress for their post on E-Fuel.