Another alternative fuel for vehicles is being created out of something you’d never expect. Dairy farmers in the North are working to make fuel out of milk.
The producers of Vodkow, which is a vodka made from milk, will soon begin making ethanol-based fuel out of the lactose byproduct of the alcohol process. The ultrafiltering process is full of lactose, which is a type of sugar that can be fed to yeast to make ethanol. Unlike many people, yeast is not lactose intolerant, and ethanol-based fuel can be used in nearly every vehicle on the road.
A change in tactics
The company producing Vodkow, Dairy Distiller, typically turns the ethanol into vodka, but it will soon be used in vehicles that can power our driving needs. The company has plans to build a $41 million plant that will open early in 2025 to begin producing this new alternative fuel. The new facility should be located next to an existing Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) facility in Constantine, Michigan. This plant currently produces 14,000 tons of milk permeate per year. This material can be transformed into 2.2 million gallons of ethanol every year, creating an excellent fuel for vehicles.
Will this new fuel reduce the carbon impact of dairy farming?
Dairy farming in the Michigan and Ohio areas has been linked to the toxic algae blooms currently appearing in Lake Erie. The change to utilizing milk byproducts to create ethanol and reduce the utilization of fossil fuels is certainly a positive move but will only have a minor effect on the environment. Currently, the American Dairy Association is responsible for nearly 20 percent o the agriculture sector’s emissions. Finding a great way to utilize these byproducts could take things in the right direction, but we must be mindful of the damaging impact of ethanol production.
What about corn?
For the past several years, E85 fuel has been touted as a cleaner alternative fuel for vehicles than traditional gasoline. Unfortunately, some recent studies suggest that making ethanol from corn can be more damaging to the environment than fossil fuels. This means the positive environmental impact we thought was taking place by creating fuel from corn might not be as good for the environment as we once thought. The issues facing ethanol product has much to do with how the corn is sourced, not necessarily in the actual production of ethanol.
Will making fuel from milk work?
Some of the greatest benefits of learning about alternative fuels for vehicles are that experimentation, studies, testing, and proof of concept are required. Creating ethanol from the ultrafiltering byproduct might be a great way to make a new type of fuel, but we’re unsure if this fuel will be affordable, feasible, and useful in the future. Still, if dairy farmers can find a way to offset some of the harmful effects cows have on the environment in the area, it could be a step in the right direction toward the next new fuel source.
Electricity still makes the most sense
Although most electricity is still produced by burning coal, new ways to produce electricity are constantly being tested and researched to find better ways to create electricity safely without turning to nuclear power. Electric vehicles face a myriad of challenges that cause them to have a harmful impact on the environment during production, but once on the road, the lack of emissions produced by these vehicles is nearly impossible to argue against. Still, many drivers aren’t ready to give up their gas-powered vehicles, and finding an alternative to gasoline that can burn cleaner and be made from materials that would be discarded can be a net positive.
Will your car soon have a milk mustache?
While it’s a bit of a joke, making ethanol from lactose in milk is a real thing, with millions of dollars worth of investment in this fuel production. The biggest question facing this production is whether or not creating this fuel will be more or less harmful to the environment than producing gasoline from fossil fuels. We might not have an answer to this question for several years.
The MMPA is making strides forward by utilizing it’s partnership with Dairy Distiller to produce fuel for cars instead of Vodkow with some of the lactose produced when making milk. Your gas tank could be filled with ethanol from this byproduct and give you a great ride across this beautiful countryside. Will this be a long-term alternative fuel for vehicles, or will it turn out to be problematic or too expensive?
Only time will tell.
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