Last week I cautioned that fuel efficient technologies — like a car that runs on water — that seem too good to be true, may indeed be too good to be true. This week, I offer a more hopeful sign of the power of technology to transform the way we produce and consume fuel.
Agilyx is a Tigard, Oregon-based company with a patented technology for converting plastics to crude oil; you might accurately say converting plastics back to crude oil, since oil is used to produce plastic in the first place. Hearing about the company’s unique brand of alchemy makes you wonder why no one thought of this sooner, and also, is this even possible?
Indeed, the company, which recently secured $22 million in venture capital funding, is already producing oil from discarded plastic and selling it to a local oil refinery at a competitive price. It says it can process all kinds of plastic, including dirty plastic that was discarded long ago, and that tests show the technology it uses to convert this trash back to oil leaves a “favorable” carbon footprint. (That last claim is one that would need to be investigated further, since it is critical that the process does not produce excessive waste. But the fact that investors have backed the business is a good sign.)
An even better sign? The massive demand for such a business. In the Pacific Ocean alone, there is an estimated 100 million tons of plastic afloat — everything from toys to truck fenders — which have long posed an environmental nightmare. Converting this plastic to fuel not only creates a lot of incentive to clean up the mess, but solves the problem of where to put all this waste once it is cleared from the ocean.
So often, we are reminded that national energy policy is all about compromise: measuring the risks and benefits of various fuel sources and making the hard choices. Agilyx offers a breakthrough not only in technology but also in conventional wisdom and shows us that, along with hard choices, there are also at least on occasion, some win-win solutions. Stay tuned to CEA’s website for more information about our upcoming Energy Day, where we will showcase some of the most cutting-edge energy production technologies.