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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Cars to run on 'farm waste'
Pump, BBC
The fuel of the future could be made from straw and grass, the "waste products" from farming.

A Canadian company is developing just such a biofuel which, if mixed with conventional petrol, could substantially reduce our reliance on fossil fuel.

The Iogen Energy Corporation's technology has already attracted the attention of the oil giant Shell, which has invested 20m in the firm.

Iogen president, Brian Foody, said he thought UK drivers might have biofuels routinely mixed into their petrol within the next three to four years.

Click here to read BBC environment correspondent Tim Hirsch discuss biofuels.

Small footprint

Some countries, such as Brazil, already blend ethanol into their petrol, but "green" fuels have yet to make a major impact on British forecourts.

"What we have developed (in a broad field of many people) is a process that takes straws and grasses, breaks them down into sugar, then ferments that sugar in the same way you would wine or beer," Mr Foody told the BBC.

"You then distil it and you get the natural fuel ethanol... It's made in a natural way. Therefore, it has a very small environmental footprint."

Because the plants used to make the fuel take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere when they are growing, burning the bioethanol in cars makes no net contribution to the greenhouse gases thought to be accelerating climate warming.

Good potential

Mr Foody said bioethanol would to be mixed with ordinary petrol - the ratios would be variable.

"You can imagine a situation where bioethanol goes from 10% of fuel components up to perhaps 85%. Flexible-fuel cars have already been developed - I drive one myself - that can run on any combination."

A Shell spokesman said it was too early to say when motorists would find the new fuel at the pumps.

"This is the first step on a long road, but we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think there was the potential," he said.

See also:

24 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Iceland launches energy revolution
05 Mar 01 | Scotland
Greens in fuel free-for-all
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