Emissions from personal leasing vehicles may be cut by agave

JonathanJuly 29, 2011

Personal leasing vehicle emissions – and those from other forms of transport – could be reduced thanks to ethanol derived from agave, a desert plant used to distil tequila that does not have to be grown on arable land and can be produced with little impact on the environment.

Scientists in Mexico were able to model a hypothetical facility to convert the high levels of sugar found in the agave plant to alcohol so it can be used as a fuel, the Guardian reports.

A lot of the ethanol used as a petrol substitute is currently produced from corn, the news source observed, adding that this has attracted criticism from some quarters for pushing up the price of grain to record levels.

Member of the research team and plant scientist at the University of Oxford Andrew Smith explained that agave’s characteristics make it well suited to bioenergy production, but also indicate that it could have potential as a plant that can adapt to climate change in the future.

The newspaper added that there are already agave biofuel trials taking place, with some experts believing that abandoned plantations in Africa and Mexico could be reclaimed for such uses.

However, the University of Oxford’s Oliver Inderwildi believes that while these fuel sources will have a vital role to play in cutting vehicle emissions, more must be done to address the problem of global warming.

“Biofuels will not be enough without changes on the demand side too, as we don’t have enough land for both fuels and food,” he remarked. “We are not going to fuel the entire US car fleet, for example, on biofuels.”

While addressing the problem of CO2 emissions from cars is no doubt pressing, a recent report from the Institute of Advanced Motorists indicated that those from vehicles in the UK are in fact falling. Although 14 per cent of all CO2 emissions in the country come from motors, this is a little less than the percentage in 2000, in spite of there being four million more cars on the road now.

Posted by Matthew Painter

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