CHICAGO — Flint, Mich., has been famously decimated by the devastation of the auto industry. Now, even as automotive fortunes look worse than ever, the city of 115,000 northwest of Detroit is seeking to recast itself as a hub of green transportation.

Starting with sewage.

The city and local Kettering University have teamed up with a Swedish company to turn Flint’s municipal sewage into fuel for its bus fleet while reducing or ending the need to incinerate sewage sludge.

The company, Swedish Biogas International, received a $4 million grant from Michigan’s Centers of Energy Excellence program to develop the biogas system, which officials hope will begin powering buses by next summer. Producing methane from sewage, landfills and manure is common in the United States, but the gas is more often burned onsite to produce electricity rather than compressed and purified for use by vehicles.

“You can get away from foreign energy dependence and you can produce energy with your own waste — isn’t that a marvelous thing?” said Stig Berglind, press counselor for the Swedish Embassy.

Flint’s economic development director, Suzanne Kayser, sees the biogas project — along with the factory that will make General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt electric car, scheduled to open in Flint in 2010 — as the future for a city that has been steadily bleeding population and jobs.

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