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The Green Life: Drink Beer, Drive Ethanol

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February 11, 2009

Drink Beer, Drive Ethanol

Beer for cars It's still not OK to do both at the same time, but get excited about drinking and driving responsibly -- in an environmental sense, anyway. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. recently began testing on a system that converts leftover beer to high-grade ethanol. Production for use in their factories, which already boast one of the nation's largest private solar installations, could begin as soon as April.

Some questions naturally arise: Leftover beer, there is such a thing? And how can I get in on this?

Each year, the brewing company trucks 1.6 million gallons of unusable, bottom-of-the-barrel beer yeast to farms as dairy feed. With a 5 to 8 percent alcohol content, the waste also contains enough yeast and nutrients to enable a higher ethanol yield. Producing their own fuel gives Sierra Nevada's shipping operations an oil-consumption break.

Even more exciting is their partnership with EFuel, maker of the world's first home-ethanol system. The EFuel100 MicroFueler is a pump station and ethanol distiller that can produce 5 gallons of ethanol a day. About the size of a refrigerator, the shiny, green machine can convert discarded beer, wine, or liquor into fuel.

So depending on your personal commitment to the cause -- or more likely with the aid of your local bar -- you could eventually be powering your own ride for as little as 10 cents per gallon.

--Jordana Fyne

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