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Sweden champions the cow-powered train

Bovine biogas

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Those readers who have ever wondered, like you do, how many miles to the cow you'd get from a bovine biogas-powered train need look no further than the Swedish cities of Linkoping and Vastervik for the answer: 2.5.

That we are able to reveal this astounding fact is thanks to the aforementioned centres of population which are linked by a methane-driven rail service which gets its fuel from a local biogas factory dedicated to turning cows into combustibles. And, although the boss of Svensk Biogas, Carl Lilliehook, admits to BBC that the cost of running the train is 20 per cent higher than with conventional diesel, the inexorable rise in oil prices will ultimately vindicate the initiative.

The production process is pretty simple: kill cow, extract organs and guts, stew for a month and then draw off methane. The gas can be used to power the rail network or, in the case of Linkoping, the city's 65-strong bus fleet. The miles-per-cow of your average bus is not noted.

The Beeb's report also showcases the biopowered model of the Saab 95 - designed to run on an 85 per cent bioethanol mix derived from Brazilian sugar beet. Naturally, while the Swedes have the infrastucture to deliver this "carbon-neutral" fuel, Saab says it can't sell the car in the UK because we're just not up to speed. Britain will miss its end-of-year target to up the percentage of biofuels burned to two per cent of total consumption, hitting an estimated 0.3 per cent. Sweden will acheive three per cent. ®

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