Sunday, November 21, 2004

Forget the tiger. Put some mushrooms in your tank

Yet a new potential souce of fuel for cars:

Where there's muck, there's gas. Scientists have created genetically modified yeasts and fungi that can turn agricultural waste into fuel for cars and trucks. In future we may take to the roads in vehicles powered by left over plant remains.

The technology - created with European Union money - uses corn stubble and other farm waste as basic ingredients for making ethanol. This can then be used as a substitute for petrol.

This project has been hailed by researchers and politicians because it could help Europe make major cuts in its massive oil import bill. Apart from North Sea oil, which is now drying up, nearly all the Continent's oil and petrol is imported.

More than 75 million tonnes of stubble are left each year from Europe's harvests. Fermenting it all would create 250,000 million litres of ethanol, equal to the world's entire current production.

In addition, such fuel does not increase global warming. The carbon dioxide released by burning ethanol is absorbed by the corn, spruce and willow plants which are grown the following year, so the gas is effectively recycled. ...

Ethanol is only a partial substitute for petrol, which can be diluted by 10 per cent by it.

The mixture will burn happily in a normal car engine. 'It may not seem much but a 20 per cent cut in oil imports would be a significant help for Europe,' said Reczey.

Once again, Europe is taking the lead in finding renewable energy sources, and it is because the governments of Europe have made the political decision to push renewables and to supply the necessary funding. This political equation is sorely lacking in the U.S.


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