beer2According to two news stories today, the contents of my fridge—a six-pack, open bottles of wine, dregs from last week’s farmers’ market and leftover stir-fry—might help power my house some day.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur has invented a system that makes ethanol out of old beer, wine and other waste kitchen products. My favorite part: the still doubles as a fuel pump for your car!

Also in the Bay Area, a pilot program is using leftovers to make electricity. Food scraps from 2,300 restaurants and grocery stores are collected and pumped into tanks at a local wastewater treatment plant, where microbes do their stuff. The decomposing food releases methane, which is used to make electricity. (A catch: Forks, oysters, and plastic bags are big problems.)

But since I don’t eat out that much, I was more interested in the beer-to-energy solution.

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  • I can’t personally vouch for this system, and the Times points out that there’s only one of them in existence. But the E Fuel MicroFueler (invented by the same guy who developed part of the Nintendo Wii gaming system) apparently turns high-alcohol organic feedstock—such as old wine and beer—into ethanol.

    It’s being marketed to homeowners, but even all the booze in my fridge wouldn’t get me very far. That’s where the commercial brewers, soda and candy companies come in. In San Diego, the distributor of MicroFuelers is working with Karl Strauss Brewing Co., Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. and Sunny Delight Beverages Co. to convert 29,000 tons of their liquid waste. The idea is that a truck would pick up their dregs in volume and deliver them to home-based MicroFuelers, who would then generate ethanol at their homes.

    The systems cost $10,000 but, implausibly, there’s a $5,000 federal tax credit available to anyone who buys one. Along with a $2 per-gallon charge to pump out the ethanol, the company estimates the average payback time for the MicroFueler would be two years. And the end product could be used to power cars (albeit less efficiently than gasoline) or a home generator.

    It does seem a little too good to be true, but it would be nice to find a higher calling for the bad bottles of wine I never remember to return.

    Check out the rest of the Northwest’s top 10 sustainability headlines at Sightline Daily, or get the news delivered via email each morning by clicking here. All of today’s news can be found here.

    Beer photocourtesy of Flickr user add1sun under a Creative Commons license.