Good COP, Bad COP

Reducing Emissions from the Most Important Pollutant – Beer
by -- December 14th, 2009

Novozymes (a dutch enzyme company) is piloting a climate nuetral beer, clim8.

While the G77 nations withdrew from conversations in the Bella Center, stepping up the drama of the summit, I was privileged to be learning about what may be the best solution-to-date to quell discontent with the masses that will swell outside the Bella Center in protest in the coming days – carbon neutral beer. Novozymes produces enzymes that reduce environmental degradation through a multitude of usually unseen processes – from making laundry detergents that clean at cooler temperatures (avoiding thermal input) to speeding waste water treatment. Today, I was fortunate enough to visit the Novozymes’ facility in Copenhagen, and amongst other conversations, talk about their brewing innovations.

While I was aware that they were involved with cutting emissions in transportation ethanol (cellulosic ethanol), I was clueless that anyone was looking at reducing emissions from drinking ethanol (beer). As a former brewer, I have been concerned by multiple externalities of brewing – in terms of emissions, water, and waste streams. But brewing, possibly more than any other industrial process, has been done almost identically for millenia, and ignorance is self-inflicted bliss. Why question beer?

The enzymes that Novozymes creates reduces the energy needed for multiple steps including malting, mashing, and fermentation and if integrated into commercial breweries could significantly reduce emissions from an uncapped source. For example, traditional malting creates compounds that eventually will be used to break carbohydrates into fermentable sugars, by germinating barley and then roasting the embryonic barley plant. Novozymes, simply adds their enzyme which performs the same process in the subsequent ‘mashing’ process at the brewery. They effectively eliminate large amounts of water needed to germinate the seed, electricity needed to stir the seedlings, and thermal heat needed to roast the malt. Furthermore, Novozymes enzymes are more efficient, increasing yields, and reducing the pounds of barley needed to make you forget how depressingly the Copenhagen talks are proceeding. Water, energy, waste. And this is only one of the enzymes used in their climate neutral beer, clim8. And as I sit here drinking one, I can assure that there is no discernible difference in taste from other light lagers.

Here’s to a bright spot in the COP-15.

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