Ruth McLaren spent a cool, blustery Saturday morning as she usually does, doing chores on and around her Mountain, Ont., Canada, farm. Among other things, she fed the cows and loaded straw onto a flat-bed truck.
A world away, in the dry heat of Manama, Bahrain, Spanish driver Fernando Alonso was savouring his excellent performance in qualifying runs earlier in the day for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix. And he did it using fuel made in part with straw supplied by Ruth McLaren.
Ferrari runs on straw?
Double Diamond Farms, a family business run by McLaren and partner Don Duncan for 22 years, collects straw from farmers across eastern and northern Ontario and ships it to Iogen Corp. of Ottawa, a biofuel manufacturer. Iogen uses the straw to produce cellulosic ethanol, which it supplies to Royal Dutch Shell, which adds it to the gasoline it supplies to Ferrari.
Today's race marks the first time cellulosic ethanol has been used in the Grand Prix, and the folks at Iogen are pretty excited about it. So is McLaren.
"To be able to see the product going from the field to the vehicle like that is pretty amazing," said McLaren on Saturday, as she took a break between chores and dinner.
Jeff Passmore, executive vice-president of Iogen, said the Ottawa company is thrilled to be making Formula One history, even if it's not of the kind most fans would ever notice.
"No one else in the world is making large quantities of cellulosic ethanol like Iogen is," said Passmore. "We're talking about several thousand litres of fuel here."
Shell owns 50 per cent of Iogen's energy division.
"Since 2008, the rule of Formula One is that biocomponents make
up 5.75 per cent by weight of the gasoline," said Rainer Winzenried, spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell in The Hague. "The Iogen ethanol is not competing with the food chain, and has a clear advantage compared to other components for gasoline."
Unlike other forms of ethanol, cellulosic ethanol uses waste product and does not divert crops intended for the food chain.
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