Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Out-Of-Your-Box Thinking

There are two stories about Scottish environmental innovation in the news today, only one of which involves alcohol!

Following on from an entire community getting their heat from a whisky distillery, researchers at Abertay University are looking at ways of using the spent grain from breweries and distilleries to produce bioethanol. While I applaud the use of a by-product from industry rather than cutting down rainforests to grow palm oil or soya, I was always under the impression that the grain used in distilleries was then used as animal feed and therefore not wasted anyway.

The other innovation comes from the bus company Alexander Dennis who have announced a new type of bus that uses regenerative braking, the same type of system that the Pendolino trains use. As the bus brakes, this produces electricity which is then used to power the bus, thus reducing the consumption of diesel. They’ll be trialling ten of these buses in London next year.

Staying with buses, the Executive have dropped plans to allow all Edinburgh school pupils free bus travel, in an attempt to get the little darlings out of mummy’s Chelsea tractor. Unfortunately they can’t afford the scheme now, and are blaming the costs of introducing trams.

Lastly comes this Irish think-tank proposal to build a railway bridge or tunnel over/under the Irish Sea, connecting Ireland and Scotland. I’m not sure the demand would be there, but at least they’re thinking big. I vaguely remember a similar proposal connecting Scotland with Norway which would have been more use to the Scandinavians who would then have a shorter overland route to France and Spain.

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