Brown Is the New Green

Remember that scene in Waterworld where Kevin Costner's character pees into a contraption that filters his urine into drinking water? Or the Mad Max movie with Tina Turner in which the town is fueled by pig poop?

Turns out, they may have been onto something.

According to a report in Reuters, a pioneer program in Orange County, California, will take water from "toilet to tap". Using a series of microfilters, they will "strain out suspended solids, bacteria and other materials" to reclaim the water wasted in sewage for drinking water.

And just what will happen to those "suspended solids"? Well, if the folks in Oslo, Norway, have anything to say about it, they'll be used for fuel. In a report for Agence France Presse, Oslo city officials related their plan to use the human waste of some 250,000 city dwellers to power part of the city's public transit system.

Using poop for fuel is actually nothing new, but today's technology allows us to move beyond burning a pile of dung for heat to more sophisticated, less smelly biogas options. And when it comes right down to it, excrement is extremely eco-friendly.

Unlike the bio-ethanol made from corn and grains, the bio-methane extracted from human (or animal) waste does not require land, fertilizer, water and other precious resources to produce, nor does it detract from the food supply. And, it's carbon neutral.

In fact, the biggest problem with fecal fuel seems to be public opinion. I mean, let's face it, when Kevin Costner drank his own urine in Waterworld, our first thought was, "Gross". And while we might not mind the thought of riding a bus powered by poop, we're likely to be a lot less enthusiastic about using fecal fuel to cook our food.

These fears may be unfounded, however, as most users report that fecal fuel produces no foul odor or residue as it burns.

It's going to take time and probably a lot more study before fecal fuel is our main source of energy, but we'd like to think it won't take an apocalypse for people to realize its many benefits.

2 comments
Posted by GirlGoneGreen on April 16,2009 at 2:08 PM

As gross as it is to consider drinking water that's from "toilet to tap" it's solutions like these that will help in the long run. If the astronauts can do it while orbiting the earth, I guess I can too.

Posted by Casey on April 16,2009 at 1:35 PM

Fecal fuel, although not attractive sounding, may very well be the bridge we need over the gap between fossil fuels and our long term solutions to sustainable, clean energy.

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