Friday, 27 March 2009
Biofuel systems that make ethanol from corn and other food crops are a really bad idea that has been seized on by American "pork barrel" politics. They put up the price of basic food stuffs and don't even come out that well on an energy balance which compares fossil fuel energy put in to the manufacturing process with usable ethanol energy out. Sometimes the energy benefit can be negative!
Some of these ethanol plants are struggling or going bankrupt which is probably no bad thing. There is currently a lot of research going on into trying to make "cellulosic" biofuel (from stems and wood and sawdust etc) which would be better environmentally and what follows is news that nature has probably got there first.
click here for full article from guardian.co.uk
A tree fungus could provide green fuel that can be pumped directly into tanks, scientists say. The organism, found in the Patagonian rainforest, naturally produces a mixture of chemicals that is remarkably similar to diesel.
"This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances," said Gary Strobel, a plant scientist from Montana State University who led the work. "We were totally surprised to learn that it was making a plethora of hydrocarbons."
In principle, biofuels are attractive replacements for liquid fossil fuels used in transport that generate greenhouse gases. The European Union has set biofuel targets of 5.75% by 2010 and 10% by 2020. But critics say current biofuels scarcely reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cause food price rises and deforestation. Producing biofuels sustainably is now a target and this latest work has been greeted by experts as an encouraging step.
The fungus, called Gliocladium roseum and discovered growing inside the ulmo tree (Eucryphia cordifolia) in northern Patagonia, produces a range of long-chain hydrocarbon molecules that are virtually identical to the fuel-grade compounds in existing fossil fuels.
Posted by Nick Palmer at 11:29