State of the Art Alcohol Production

Here is a snapshot of where MOTHER EARTH NEWS was at in 1980 with its research into fuel alcohol production.

| March/April 1980

  • 062 alcohol production
    LEFT: A solar still designed by MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader Jim Langley. CENTER TOP:  MOTHER EARTH NEWS' experimental sun-fired distillery CENTER BOTTOM:  Nearly 1,000 people attended an alcohol fuel seminar in Michigan. RIGHT: Seminar attendees crowd around MOTHER EARTH NEWS' 6" column still at the Wisconsin state capitol.

  • 062 alcohol production

A little over a year ago, MOTHER EARTH NEWS published an interview with a Minnesota farmer by the name of Lance Crombie . . . a gentleman who, single-handed, was probably responsible for "planting the seed" that started the whole alcohol fuel movement that's now thriving in this country. 

As a result of that interview MOTHER EARTH NEWS applied for, and was granted, a federal experimental distilled spirits permit . . . which gave this publication's investigators a license to try their hands at still design, mash formulation, and the practical use of ethanol in home heating furnaces and various internal combustion engines for a period of two years. 

Today, 15 months after the permit was issued, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' research team has come to be recognized as one of the nation's most knowledgeable authorities on small-scale alcohol production and the use of alcohol fuel. It wasn't an easy road to be sure, and by no means are we anywhere near the end of our research. But at this point in time — especially after a series of overwhelmingly successful on the-road alcohol fuel seminars — we felt that MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readers might be interested in learning how we progressed from being mere listeners to becoming "state of the art" doers in just over a year. 

Back during the tail end of 1978, when Lance Crombie and his solar still were big news in Minnesota, not many people realized that grain alcohol could actually be used as a source of energy. Not that the fuel's capability was a secret, mind you . . . after all, the USDA had published bulletins as early as 1907 which covered the subject in detail. It's just that over the years — especially while a seemingly endless supply of gasoline was available — the technology (and the very concept) of homemade alcohol fuel had gradually been forgotten.

Of course, with the advent of the energy crunch, a number of farsighted individuals began to investigate this alternative to petroleum-based fuels . . . and that research, in its turn, eventually resulted in a sizable alcohol fuel "movement," the full force of which has yet to be seen.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Naturally, no one single person or group can take full credit for starting the "new wave" of alcohol fuel awareness . . . simply because it's doubtful whether any individual or organization knew enough about the various aspects of the fermentation, distillation, and use of the fuel to claim expertise at the time. But there are certain people, Mr. Crombie being one, who did a hell of a lot to steer the general public in the right direction.


Fermentation Frenzy!

September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pa

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


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