I suppose this might make sense as long as waste products are used but otherwise if the rice itself is used it seems inefficient and perhaps immoral to divert a food to making fuel. I am surprised that fuel in Japan is no more expensive than here in Canada.
Sake may power Japanese cars in the future
Fri May 11, 2007
By Risa Maeda
SHINANOMACHI, Japan (Reuters) - Japanese motorists may one day pump
cars full of sake, the fermented rice wine that is Japan's national
if a pilot project to create sake fuel is a hit with locals in this
The government-funded project at Shinanomachi, 200 kilometres northwest
Tokyo, will produce cheap rice-origin ethanol brew with the help of
farmers who will donate farm waste such as rice hulls to be turned into
"We want to present the next generation a preferable blue print -- a
self-sustainable use of local fuels," said Yasuo Igarashi, a professor
applied microbiology at the University of Tokyo who heads the three
If the project catches on with locals then it could pave the way for
endeavours across Japan that will see Japanese cars running on
biofuels in the future, he added.
Japan, the world's second largest gasoline consumer after the United
is entirely dependent on crude oil imports and it has been hit by the
in oil prices.
With hefty carbon emissions reduction targets to meet under the Kyoto
protocols, Japan is turning to biofuels. Yet motorists in Japan are
far behind drivers in Europe and the United States in their consumption
Some analysts say Japan is at a major disadvantage as high prices for
farm produce mean locally-made green fuels are exorbitantly expensive.
Added to that is a lack of support from the country's powerful oil
distributors and a failure by the government to provide policy
such as mandatory usage.
That is where Igarashi and his team come in. They hope to show that
are feasible and inexpensive by developing a low-cost fuel and
local community of about 10,000 people to take part in producing that
SWEET AROMA OF BIOFUELS
Production has just begun at the facility at a former high school field
Shinanomachi and a sweet, sour aroma, similar to that of unfiltered
wafts into the air.
"We like the idea," said Shigehiro Matsuki, the mayor of Shinanomachi.
"The new fuels are renewable... instead of fossil fuels which are
Unlike spacious sugar cane plantations in the No.1 ethanol exporter,
family farming is dominant in Japan, with a majority of farmers working
regular jobs and growing rice, the staple food, on their weekends.
There is plenty of potential to develop biofuels from agriculture waste
abandoned farmland, Igarashi said.
The project will test its biofuel on a "flex-fuel vehicle", which can
any mixture of gasoline and green fuels and which is gaining popularity
the rest of the world as the battle against global warming heats up.
But Japan has no flex-fuel vehicles even though Japanese car companies
Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. produce them for the market in
So the team imported a red Ford Focus from Britain for the project.
With one 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rice needed to produce 0.5 litre of
ethanol, the main challenge will be creating a low cost biofuel that
compete with ordinary gasoline, which is now sold at around 135 yen
a litre, including gasoline related taxes of some 56 yen.
© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.