In Scotland, a company called Celtic Renewables has devised a way to power cars using the massive amount of by-product leftover from distilling Scotch. Celtic founder Martin Tangney is taking some of the hundreds of thousands of tons of spent barley and the billions of liters of liquid waste, called pot ale, generated by whiskey production each year and feeding it to bacteria called clostridium. The result is a fuel that can go directly into a car’s fuel tank, no engine alterations required. According to Tangney, the process is actually similar to the way the whiskey itself ferments. Instead of yeast breaking down sugars to produce the ethanol that gets us buzzed from a shot, the clostridium does the same thing to the leftovers, but produces a fuel called biobutanol.
In a show of support, the British government kicked in more than $1.3 million today to move Tangney’s “whisky gas” into a pilot program designed to bring it up to a more industrial scale, and get whiskey-powered cars on the road as soon as possible. The EU is requiring 10 percent of all fuel sold in Europe to be biofuel by 2020—more than double the 2010 requirements—and making it out of whiskey waste is a much better alternative than using crops people might actually eat, like corn.