Sake to Power Japanese Cars in the Future

Japanese motorists may one day pump their cars full of sake, the fermented rice wine that is Japan's national drink, if a pilot project to create sake fuel is a hit with locals in this mountain resort. The town of Shinanomachi will produce a cheap ethanol brew from rice with the help of local farmers who will donate farm waste such as rice hulls. Production has just begun at the facility at a former high school field in Shinanomachi and a sweet, sour aroma, similar to that of unfiltered sake, wafts into the air. "We want to present the next generation a preferable blue print -- a self-sustainable use of local fuels," said Yasuo Igarashi, a professor of applied microbiology at the University of Tokyo who heads the three year project. If the project catches on with locals then it could pave the way for similar endeavors across Japan that will see Japanese cars running on Japanese-made biofuels in the future, he added.Japan, the world's second largest gasoline consumer after the United States, is entirely dependent on crude oil imports and it has been hit by the surge in oil prices. With hefty carbon emissions reduction targets to meet under the Kyoto protocols, Japan is turning to biofuels. Yet motorists in Japan are still far behind drivers in Europe and the United States in their consumption of green fuels.

That is where Igarashi and his team come in. They hope to show that biofuels are feasible and inexpensive by developing a low-cost fuel and encouraging a local community of about 10,000 people to take part in producing that fuel.

There is plenty of potential to develop biofuels from agriculture waste and abandoned farmland, Igarashi said.The project will test its biofuel on a "flex-fuel vehicle", which can run on any mixture of gasoline and green fuels and which is gaining popularity in the rest of the world as the battle against global warming heats up.

Via Pure Green Cars and Reuters

Tags: Ethanol | Japan

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