Smugglers trying to sneak alcohol into Sweden are unwittingly helping fuel the country's public transport system and reducing its greenhouse emissions.
Almost all of the 185,000 gallons of smuggled alcohol seized by the customs service last year was turned into alternative fuel and used to power buses, trucks and a biogas train, officials said Friday.
"We used to just pour it down the drain, but because of the increased volumes we had to look around for new solutions," customs spokeswoman Ingrid Jerlebrink said.
The beer, wine and liquor is taken to a plant in Linkoping, 125 miles southwest of Stockholm, where it is heated and converted into biogas.
Biogas is used in Sweden to power some 1,000 trucks and buses and one train, said Carl Lilliehook, head of Svensk Biogas AB, which handles most of the confiscated alcohol.
Lilliehook said a quart of pure alcohol is enough to make about a tenth of a gallon of biogas. And it is good business, because the material to make it is free.
Jerlebrink said the customs service was happy to get rid of the smuggled alcohol, which was taking up space before the biogas program was started a few years ago.
"We pump it into a big tank that we jokingly call 'the giant cocktail' and then a truck just comes and picks it up," she said.
The project also helps the country's efforts to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels blamed for global warming.
In 2003, about one-quarter of the energy consumed in the small Nordic country came from renewable sources, compared with the 6 percent average for the European Union, according to EU statistics. In Stockholm, one-quarter of city buses run on ethanol or biogas.