Fruit to fuel

first_imgBy April SorrowUniversity of GeorgiaHalf of all the fruit grown in Georgia is never eaten by people or animals. It rots in the fields. A University of Georgia researcher says that spoiled fruit could fuel cars. That wasted fruit can be converted into bioethanol through a fermentation process, said Elliot Altman, program coordinator for the UGA Center for Molecular Bioengineering.“All fruits are 10 percent sugar, or potentially 5 percent ethanol,” said Altman, an engineer with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s a real opportunity.”The fermentation process could create a high-protein byproduct, which can be used in animal feed, called dried distillers grain.The largest opportunity in Georgia lies in watermelons and peaches. Last year, the state harvested one billion pounds of watermelon and more than 61 million pounds of peaches. The same amount rotted in the fields. The fruit is left behind because it doesn’t make the grade for commercial sale. Consumers don’t want fruit that doesn’t look perfect, even though it is fine to eat in most cases. Some of the discarded fruit is used in preserves and juice, but 50 percent never leaves the field.Ethanol conversion is not possible on a small scale like biodiesel operations. Getting enough commodity groups excited about converting the waste to fuel is one battle Altman hopes legislation may help with. “One farmer isn’t big enough to set up operation,” he said. “If packers knew in advance the fruit would be used for something, they could gather it in a separate place for transport to the ethanol plant.” Government regulations mandate the blending of 5 percent ethanol into gasoline by 2009 and 10 percent by 2011. The Renewable Fuel Standard program will increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into gasoline from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. But, ethanol plants aren’t cheap. “You can’t build a small plant,” he said. “To be cost effective, most experts agree that a plant would need to produce at least 10 million gallons of ethanol a year.”Altman and his colleague Mark Eiteman, a biological and agricultural engineering professor, are working on techniques to simplify the commercial ethanol plant, making it cheaper to produce ethanol and DDG.For example, their group has researched adding expired table sugars to increase the ethanol yields that can be obtained. Access to waste fruit is not a year-round venture, he said.“Even with a couple of fruits, a fruit-ethanol plant would only be operational for half a year, and the infrastructure for an ethanol plant is a significant investment,” Altman said.Altman is currently researching several other products – like grain sorghum – that could be used when the fruit is not available. “It has silo storage capability and is able to grow in areas of Georgia not suitable for anything else,” he said. “It does not take away from other crops and would not hurt the food market.”Georgia also has potential to produce ethanol from bakery waste. “We have a unique niche in the Atlanta area with our bakeries.”(April Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img read more

AAA offices nationwide driving tourists to Vermont

first_imgAs the fall foliage season shifts into high gear, AAA is working with Vermont’s tourism industry leaders to disseminate information nationwide through its travel offices. The resources will be used by AAA’s travel counselors to help direct motorists and encourage them to travel the Green Mountain State.Tom Williams, Regional Manager of AAA Northern New England, noted, ‘We have a golden opportunity to provide up-to-date, practical information to members across the country. In the great majority of areas hit by the storm, visitors will find roadways with smooth pavement and bright lines. It is our role to make sure that people who are interested in coming to Vermont get the information they need.’ In a communication sent earlier this week to all AAA offices in the United States, AAA states, ‘In late August, the State of Vermont made headlines across the nation as flood waters from Hurricane Irene caused major damage to the states highways and bridges. Within weeks after Irene, Vermont rebuilt at an unprecedented rate. Now 95% of Vermont roads are open, with final touches being made every day.’Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing (VDTM) Deputy Commissioner Steve Cook works with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Ski Vermont on the ‘Foliage Force,’ a team which has been promoting Vermont’s vibrant foliage season in the wake of Irene. Cook noted, ‘The foliage season has begun, and all indications are that it will be as vibrant and beautiful as ever. We are delighted that AAA has taken a proactive role in informing people about Vermont, and our recovery from the storm. This is a testament to AAA’s confidence in our state, and the resilience of our tourism businesses.’The bulletin refers travel counselors to road repair resources provided by VTrans, as well as planning information supplied by VDTM, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Ski Vermont. It concludes that AAA Northern New England branch offices in Montpelier, Rutland and Williston are well prepared to help motorists navigate the state of Vermont. Vermont Dept of Travel and Tourism. 9.28.2011last_img read more