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The optional, green-bin-powered Chevrolet

The Toronto Star recently reported on Chevrolet’s new Impala variant, one that runs on bio-fuel – or in other words, food waste. For food products that fail inspection and quality control tests, processors could turn to this option and not just fuel the cars of tomorrow – but today’s cars as well. Here are some excerpts from the report:

The Impala in question, built in Oshawa, is a bi-fuel vehicle, able to run on gasoline or compressed natural gas. Part of the 3.6-litre V6 engine is hardened to withstand the rigours of burning natural gas. In the trunk, a 29.5-litre tank holds enough for about 240 kilometres of city driving.

Garbage is involved because natural gas doesn’t only come from deep underground. When food scraps, sewage, fats, manure or any other organic waste is put into an oxygen-free environment, it decomposes and, in the process, produces “biogas,” comprised of up to 65 per cent methane, as well as carbon dioxide, water vapour and other bits and pieces. This happens in sealed tanks called anaerobic digesters. Ontario has about 30 in operation. Most are on farms, and handle manure combined with food industry scraps and fats. But they’re also how Toronto handles the sloppy loads from its Green Bins, and Hamilton has one at its main sewage-treatment plant.

The biogas can be burned in a generator to produce electricity. It can also be easily purified to more than 95-per-cent methane, at which point it’s identical to conventional, fossil-fuel natural gas. It’s called renewable natural gas, or RNG, and it’s what the Impala announcement is about.

If you can run a vehicle on conventional natural gas — as more drivers are — you can also use RNG. Doing so, you help to combat climate change. Conventional natural gas emits about 25 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline or diesel. RNG adds virtually none to the atmosphere.

It’s a far better option than dumping organic waste into landfills. It works, it’s economic, it will expand, and any contribution to reducing climate change is worth pursuing.

Read the full article here.