(Source: Dreamworks)

Scotland produces over 150M liters of Scotch whisky a year. Currently the production byproducts are thrown out, but soon they could be used to produce hundreds of thousands of barrels of butanol biofuel.  (Source: Jaggederest)
Pour yourself a nice cool glass of whisky biofuel, it's been a long day

The Scottish may have struck on a brilliant idea of how to apply their favorite alcoholic drink -- whisky -- to improving the auto industry.

Scotch whisky, Scotland's drink of choice, is renowned worldwide for its smooth taste and full flavor.  Scotland produces approximately 150M liters of the spirit yearly.  That production earns Scotland over $6.24B USD annually.

That production leads to a lot of byproducts -- which largely are discarded.  Researchers at the Edinburgh Napier University have cooked up a method to end that waste, instead turning two of the main byproducts -- "pot ale", the liquid from the copper stills, and "draff", the spent grains – into biofuels.

The team used samples from Glenkinchie Distillery to test their process.  The new process produces butanol instead of the much-maligned ethanol biofuel.  Butanol is generally considered a more useful biofuel as, unlike ethanol, it can be free blended into gasoline at any ratio without special engine considerations.  It delivers 30 percent more power by volume than ethanol, as well.  And it's the starting point to producing many useful chemicals, such as the industrial solvent acetone.

The team adapted a 100-year-old technique used to make butanol and acetone from sugar.  They've patented their refined method and created a startup to market the technology.

Professor Martin Tangney, who led the project, says it will play a critical role in helping Scotland, England, and the rest of the United Kingdom meet the European Union's 2020 target for biofuels to account for 10 percent of total fuel sales (similar to mandates in the U.S.).  He states, "What people need to do is stop thinking 'either or'; people need to stop thinking like for like substitution for oil. That's not going to happen. Different things will be needed in different countries. Electric cars will play some role in the market, taking cars off the road could be one of the most important things we ever do."

Assuming the researchers can get a liter of biofuel per liter of whisky produced (which may be a reasonable assumption as production waste far outweighs the current product), the industry could eventually produce almost 1M barrels of butanol per year (there's 158 liters in a standard barrel of oil).  Mass adoption seems feasible, given that there are only around 100 refineries in Scotland.  The UK (as a whole) uses about 1.8M barrels of oil a day, so this still would only be a small contribution, albeit a significant one.

Dr. Richard Dixon, of WWF Scotland, cheered the news, stating, "The production of some biofuels can cause massive environmental damage to forests and wildlife," he said. "So whisky powered-cars could help Scotland avoid having to use those forest-trashing biofuels."

For Scotland it might finally be a good idea to have "one for the road" -- in whisky biofuel, that is.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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