Turning Garbage Into Fuel
Where biofuels like corn-based ethanol have failed, fuels made from garbage will succeed, says a former federal engineer. But can making usable fuel from waste really be achieved?
What's the Latest Development?
Next year, a large chemical plant in Edmonton, Canada, will begin turning garbage into 36 million liters of ethanol per year. Using "fluff" from municipal solid waste, i.e. textiles, plastics and wood, the factory will make chemical byproducts and fuel that could compete against corn-based ethanol which supplies ten percent of the U.S.'s domestic fuel demand. The region of Alberta, of which Edmonton is the capital, has the country's highest concentration of tar sands, a mix of dirt and oil which is expensive to refine into usable petroleum.
What's the Big Idea?
The promise of biofuels have been slow to materialize and corn-based ethanol has largely been a policy failure. Besides corroding older car engines, the production of corn for ethanol has made large swaths of land unavailable for food production, helping to drive up world food prices. "And trash-based biofuels need not compete on cost with fuels, as long as they offer a lower cost than their other competitor—landfills." As the U.S. seeks to decrease its dependency on foreign oil, garbage ethanol might serve as a small but potent substitute.
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Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
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