The Democratic National Convention Will Run On Beer


August's Democratic National Convention is going to be fueled by more than high spirits and the drama of the upcoming Presidential election in November. It’s going to be powered by real spirits, in the form of beer.

Host city Denver is also home to the Molson Coors Brewing Company (TAP), which happens to be the first domestic brewery to convert waste beer to ethanol. This spring, Molson Coors donated enough clean burning ethanol fuel for 400 General Motors (GM) flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) that will transport DNC officials, U.S. House and Senate members, state party chairs, delegates, staff and media.

The company can afford the donation. Coors produces about three million gallons of waste beer—suds of substandard quality, or brew lost during packaging—a year. The company says their ethanol helps reduce the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by about seven tons annually.

Now the future looks good for bad beer: General Motors has pledged half of its production line will convert to FFV’s by 2012, a substantial increase from the 11 models it currently produces. And General Motors isn’t the only manufacturer hopping on the ethanol bandwagon. The Ford Taurus (F), Ford Explorer, Chrysler Voyager Minivan, Dodge Ram pickups and Mercedes-Benz C-Class C300 (DAI) are all powered by ethanol, meaning luxury car lovers and minivan mamas can both opt for a greener way to get around.

This different way of energizing your ride can save you money, too. Nationwide, ethanol fueling stations remain less expensive per gallon than gasoline. Visit the National Vehicle Ethanol Coalition to find out if your car qualifies and where to find fuel.

What is ethanol? The alcohol in it is identical to that in your margarita, and like liquor, is distilled in a variety of ways. Three ingredients dominate production, sugar, corn and cellulose. While the end result is the same, the costs and issues from using each one differ. Sugar ethanol, produced primarily in Brazil, is efficient and cost effective, yielding an “energy balance” of 8.1:1. That figure is based on the International Energy Agency’s ratio of energy produced by the ethanol to energy expended in its production. Sugar ethanol also burns significantly cleaner than gasoline, emitting 80% less greenhouse gases.

Ethanol made from corn is more expensive and less efficient than sugar based ethanol, yielding a disappointing 1.3 to 1 energy balance and costing 50% more that sugar ethanol. Growing corn requires tractors and farm equipment still dependent on gasoline, throwing an environmentally friendly result back into the darker days of poor emissions and high petroleum costs. Not to mention, corn based ethanol burns only 10% to 15% cleaner than gasoline in regards to greenhouse gas production.

Cellulosic ethanol is far superior to sugar and corn, but costly. Cellulosic technology uses bacteria to convert the fibrous content of plants into starches that can later be fermented by more bacteria to produce ethanol.

But members of the Democratic Party won’t have to worry about inefficient corn ethanol, or costly cellulosic technology. Molson Coors’ ethanol is beer based, driving an environmentally friendly convention.

Barack Obama shouldn’t worry if he wants to throw back a few Coors Lights after his Thursday night speech. He’ll have access to beer outside of his daily transportation needs. Molson Coors is also supplying beer to pre-convention events, meetings, media briefings, and VIP events. Cheers!

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