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Friday Follies: Drink More Whisky and Save the Earth, or How Drinking and Driving Can Work Together to Save the Environment

Whisky in Glasses

A recent article in the Guardian piqued my interest, as it had to do with Scotch whisky. When I looked closer, I realized it had to do with chemistry, which really grabbed my attention! And since I know you’re all dying for more chemistry lessons, I decided to bring this report to your attention.

It’s a really, really important piece of work, actually. Because, you see, it indicates that we’ve been heading in the wrong direction on the biofuels initiative. And it may show us that the proper way includes the consumption of whisky. Lots and lots of whisky!

Here are the key points:

Using samples from the Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian, researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have developed a method of producing biofuel from two main by-products of the whisky distilling process – “pot ale”, the liquid from the copper stills, and “draff”, the spent grains.

Copious quantities of both waste products are produced by the £4bn whisky industry each year, and the scientists say there is real potential for the biofuel, to be available at local garage forecourts alongside traditional fuels. It can be used in conventional cars without adapting their engines. The team also said it could be used to fuel planes and as the basis for chemicals such as acetone, an important solvent.

The new method developed by the team produces butanol, which gives 30% more power output than the traditional biofuel ethanol. It is based on a 100-year-old process that was originally developed to produce butanol and acetone by fermenting sugar. The team has adapted this to use whiskey by-products as a starting point and has filed for a patent to cover the new method. It plans to create a spin-out company to commercialise the invention.

So, just in case you’ve been sitting a roadside bar, sipping a smooth lowland Scotch and wondering where your next tank of gas was going to come from, then drink on! The solution may be no farther away than the glass in front of you.

Fueling Up

It appears, then, that we should quit cooking corn into squeezin’s just to put in our car. (This is something that many, many people have complained about, actually; but finding another alternative has been tough.) Butanol, on the other hand, isn’t something we’d ever want to drink. And that’s exactly what the new Scotch method produces! It’s a real drink-burn win-win scenario, as far as I can tell.

This latest finding also begs the question: Why isn’t our government looking into subsidizing whisky distilleries all over America? That’s a movement I could surely support. (And if Obama’s really only a “movement leader” then what better leadership could he demonstrate?) Shoot, I’d even sacrifice myself by offering to run one of these local stills. And do all that difficult and onerous tasting myself.

Of the whisky, I mean; not the biofuel…

Enjoy the (Green Whisky) Heat!

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