Pollution: can we produce fuel from the waste we produce?

Image credit: Sorawit Mangkorn / Shutterstock.com

We tend to think of pollution as a problem, a cost centre, not a profit centre. And on the face of it, that is basically true.

Pollution is certainly one of the biggest challenges facing mankind at the moment and leaving the clean-up to Governments is really not the answer.

The real answer to the pollution problem is for someone to see a huge opportunity in fixing it and making very serious money in the process.

This may sound like blue sky thinking or a moon shot but companies are already working on the pollution solution.

Airlines are already behind this goal and have set themselves a target of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. Given the progress made already it looks as if this target will be reached and even improved upon.

The airlines are pinning their hopes on garbage.

A company called Velocys is already at the feasibility stage. Essentially, post recycled waste can be converted into jet fuel, fuel that can reduce emissions by between 70% and 90%. There is a similar initiative in North America and plans are afoot to export the idea, worldwide.

Jet fuel is not the only area where cleaning up the industry’s act is becoming a priority.

For instance, there is a company called Prometheus (after, possibly, the Titan who was credited with making man from clay). The company is developing a machine that can make fuel out of CO2 and although it is early days, it has the backing of a high profile accelerator – Y Combinator. Right now, it is definitely a moon shot but the principles seem sound.

There are probably other initiatives out there and it will be a while before concrete things start to happen. It does seem, though, that the old cliché of seeing an opportunity in every  problem may be coming true in this case.

As always, if you want something done, leave it to a 20 something year old, with the gleam of gold in his eye, not to Governments who make up targets that everyone ignores.

Who knows, we may even watch the Back to the Future film where the professor fuels up his car with a couple of bananas and some bread and think ‘come on, guys, that stuff is old hat’.

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