Orange peels for clean air

Citrus biofuel: Florida's ethanol alternative?

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click to enlarge Orange peels for clean air - Mike Pedroncelli/flickr
Mike Pedroncelli/flickr
Orange peels for clean air

With corn-based ethanol falling out of favor as environmentally and economically unfriendly, Florida may have found a different answer to the biofuel puzzle in its own back yard — our citrus groves.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is researching whether citrus peels, of which Florida produces more than 5 million tons each year, can be converted into ethanol. Citrus-peel ethanol puts no pressure on the food supply, and production is local, which means there is no need to transport it via truck and rail over long distances.

Scientists hope the citrus-peel biofuel is more efficient than ethanol made from corn, which some researchers found took more energy to make than it produced.

Several Florida-based companies are working on citrus peels, but results are uncertain at best. Xethanol Inc. has yet to produce any significant amounts of ethanol, online business investigators Sharesleuth found. Another company, Citrus Energy LLC, has established partnerships with FPL Energy, which specializes in the production of renewable fuels.

The jury is still out on both companies, and right now, we are no closer to cars powered by orange peels than we are to cars powered by ears of corn or stalks of sugar cane.


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