Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Fungus could make biofuels practical

There has been a lot of attention paid lately to "biofuels," but often without consideration for the economics involved. Gathering, transporting, and converting surplus crops and other plants into diesel fuel can end up costing more, in money and in fuel, than you get out of the process.
A newly discovered fungus offers hope for a practical low-cost, high-efficiency production process.
The fungus Gliocladium roseum, found in a South American rainforest, is the most efficient producer of "waste" (from the fungus's point of view) ever seen in the natural world, and it can use almost any plant matter. Gary Strobel of Montana State University, says, "The fungus can even make these diesel compounds from cellulose, which would make it a better source of biofuel than anything we use at the moment."
COMMENT: It will be years before a commercially viable process comes out of this, but there are many lessons to be learned, including the importance of conservation (what if this forest had been cleared out?) and the need to continue our exploration of the natural world.

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