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From waste to opportunity: ethanol in Sweden during the first half of the 20th century
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies.
2007 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

At the beginning of the 20th century the pulp industry in Sweden faced major problems with waste. Pine and spruce contain at the best 40 % cellulose. The remainder was released into the air and water, causing major environmental problems. In 1909 two Swedish engineers patented a method to ferment sulphite lye into alcohol. Apart for consumption, the alcohol could be used as fuel. The rest of the lye, reduced of it’s saccariferous contents, was expected to become the basis of a new chemical industry, producing dyestuffs etc. Within two years three sulphite alcohol factories were established in Sweden and the method was also used in other countries. There was just one problem. In Sweden, ever since the beginning of the 17th century, the production of liquor had been intensely regulated by the state. And the law concerning the production was adapted to agrarian interests, producing alcohol from products like corn or potatoes. Organized temperance and the agrarians acted against the pulp producers and argued that it’s better to use “natural” products instead of dirty lye. Then came the First World War and the import of petrol decreased. At the same time food supply became critical. It seemed unreasonable to produce alcohol out of food, but reasonable to compensate the lack of petrol with sulphite alcohol- The number of plants producing sulphite alcohol grew rapidly and an industry producing car engines fuelled by sulphite alcohol was emerging. This came to an end after the war when the price of imported petrol gave sulphite alcohol problems to compete and agrarian and temperance interests once again acted against the production. But the story was repeated during the Second World War and is also of contemporary interest since many countries and companies are trying to substitute oil for ethanol, bio-alcohol

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. , 19 p.
Keyword [en]
Ethanol, Bio Fuel
National Category
History of Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1516OAI: diva2:141280
Available from: 2008-01-29 Created: 2008-01-29 Last updated: 2009-11-05Bibliographically approved

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