Americans who currently use ethanol in their cars are said to be benefiting from the massive surplus of corn created from years of government subsidies. However, it now seems that corn-based ethanol production in the United States might have some competition from an unlikely source: wine yeast.
It’s still a few years down the line, but Wine Spectator reports that researchers at Stanford University are excited about the prospect of using wine yeasts to break down inedible plants like switchgrass and others. These plants may offer a cleaner fuel solution than most corn and sugar cane-based ethanols, although up until recently researchers couldn’t find a cost-effective way to break down these grasses.
The scientists found a relatively inexpensive method using 38 different wine yeasts that they say were able to break down xylose – a grass-based sugar that could converted into ethanol. (If xylose sounds vaguely familiar, it is because it’s the same concept behind xylitol used in sugarless gums). Researchers do stress that it’s not likely to be completely effective for another couple of years.
In the meantime, if you’re worrying about your carbon footprint while Stanford is sorting out which yeasts used in your Malbecs or your Cabernets will help someday fuel your Prius, you don’t need to fret just yet. With a few years to go, you have time. And if you want to do your part to green the environment but still want to go on a road trip (especially through wine country), here are some tips:
1) Enjoy the journey and don’t treat it like a rally race. Your fuel consumption can increase drastically with frequent starts and stops.
2) Pump up the volume, or at least your tires. Proper inflation can mean 3 percent fuel mileage increases.
3) Pack light. The more weight you’re dealing with the worse your vehicle will do on fuel economy. A lighter car handles better, too.
[Image: jsgphoto via Flickr]