Scientists Create New Gasoline Substitute Out of Plants

Picture: Steve Jurvetson (CC)

California scientists have just created a new biofuel using plants that burns just as well as a petroleum-based fuel. “The discovery, published in the journal Nature, means corn, sugar cane, grasses and other fast-growing plants or trees, like eucalyptus, could be used to make the propellant, replacing oil,” writes the San Francisco Chronicle, and the researchers predict mass marketing of their product within 5 to 10 years.

They created their fuel using a fermentation process that was first discovered in 1914, but which was then discontinued in 1965 when petroleum became the dominant source of fuel. The new fuel actually contains more energy per gallon than is currently contained in ethanol, and its potency can even be adjusted for summer or winter driving.

Read the full article here.

24 Comments on "Scientists Create New Gasoline Substitute Out of Plants"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Jan 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm |

    Hooray! Let’s keep the murder party that is industrial capitalism rolling!

    • You prefer being part of the dieoff that would result from a sudden end to mechanized agricultuire?

      • Anarchy Pony | Jan 21, 2013 at 11:08 pm |

        Don’t really care anymore. The news lately has been leaving me feeling increasingly nihilistic.

        • Bechya that primitive lifestyle I advocated could help with that nihilistic feeling.

        • Awww pony. Just focus on the Now. Roof over your head? Food in the fridge? Something growing somewhere around you? Fresh air outside? Our Now is so much better than their ‘now’. Also, go back and read the classics. Kropotkin, Goldman, Berkman, Malatesta, Gustav Landauer, Tolstoy. They’ll make you feel a lot better. 🙂

      • Bullshit. Mechanized agriculture has done nothing good for humanity. It’s only served to drain the earth and give nothing back.
        There would not be a “dieoff” if we abandoned mechanized ag for sustainable agriculture techniques. Small farms and small communities supportive of farms are the only hope for an earth that can produce enough to feed humanity.

        • Prove it. So far, all you’ve shown me is that you don’t have the remotest clue as to what the hell you think you are talking about. You don’t understand the web of relationships that determine food gets from field to supermarket. Got cites to studies from reputable sources that show that anything you say is true? You claim virtue because you shit outdoors. Not knowing that there are sound health reasons why civilized humans stopped doing that. (google on pathogenic bacteria)

          I’ve criticized Futurists for not understanding the present from which all futures must come. Is there some reason why I should spare you?

          • Google “composting toilets” Kills all pathogenic bacteria and creates a safe form of compost to be spread on fruit and nut trees.
            There can be no studies to back up what I say because it’s not some experiment done in a lab, but Organic Life itself!
            Field to supermarket? Try field to person. It’s called a CSA(Community Supported Ag).
            I’m talking about real solutions to our real problems. Not some pie in the sky, pseudo-salvation from the FUTURE.
            Now, prove your claims. Prove to me that if we abandon mechanized ag there will be a die-off. Prove that without technologicl interference we would all die.
            Why are the technophiliacs so afraid of nature?

          • I’d expect a die off just from the transition to such a communal perspective. But many people conflate a tragic shift to a catastrophic shift. The ones who cannot adapt will have a harder time, and not much can be done about that.

          • “Web of relationships”? Studies from reputable sources”?
            Sounds like you’re trying to sound like you know more than you do. You’d make a great politician.
            Y’know what I’m talking about? COOPERATION WITH EXISTING LIFE FORMS. It’s the difference between a romantic relationship and rape.
            Ya can’t have a romantic relationship with a robot.

          • I dunno, some people in japan might want to try to contest that last sentence.

          • So explain to us precisely what it would take to replace all our toilets with composting toilets including but not limited to:
            1. What are these toilets made of?
            2. Explain the ecological impact of ordering 100 million or so composting toilets from Chinese factories, including shipping from China, and including ecological impacts for the materials used for the components used in these toilets.
            3. moving all this composted waste from cities and suburbs to fields without creating substantial air pollution in the shipping process
            4. how this composted waste would be handled in a high-rise apartment or office building or nursing home or hospital?

            5. What are the special issues involved in dealing with composted waste generated at medical facilities?

            6. Where are the best places to use robotic and automation technology in the handling of waste?

          • Ya shit in a bucket, and toss a few handfuls of sawdust or leaf duff on that. When the bucket fills up, throw it in a compost pile. If you want, you can add simple microorganisms to the compost to speed up the decomposition. Anyway a big enough compost pile heats up enough to kill harmful microorganisms. This could be easily implemented on a community-sized scale, but probably even in our unwieldy society. The fact we consume food from the earth and then don’t put it back into the earth is a particular pet-peeve of mine. But I wouldn’t want anyone’s shit feeding my fruit trees, as most people consume massive amounts of pharmaceuticals/poisons, etc
            Very simple as honest solutions should be in our Natural world.
            We should adapt to nature, not strong arm it for the sake of techno. progress.

          • Also for jnana. This either or thinking is just holding us all back, why not use mechanized agriculture in a transition towards more local sustainable agriculture, why all this extremism in either direction?

            alizardx, you do not believe that organically locally grown food without pesticide and grown in complex relational webs with intercropping mirroring ecosystems with rich soils teeming with microorganisms is a better goal to work towards in the long run than huge monocultures drenched in pesticides and with irrigation techniques that lead to eroision of the soil and nutrients being washed out to sea?

            jnana, you do not believe that a sudden stop to mechanical agriculture would leave billions in hunger and misery if you haven’t first developed new patterns for how we live? Do you think at this moment in time it is possible to build up soil life, institute complex eco-system like production systems and so on without relaying at least to some extent on mech agriculture?

          • Who or what provides the labor in your scenario? As far as I’ve been able to discern, modern organic farming uses the same diesel tractors, combines, harvesters, etc. ordinary mechanized ag uses, with the difference being organic fertilizer, non-GMO seeds, and integrated pest management instead of insecticides?

          • Every farm is different.
            But who provides labor?
            People and animals. We have a lot of those, wasting their lives, only consuming and never giving back. Many would probably love the opportunity to get in touch with their roots and give back to the land that has supplied us with life.

          • Sure, use mech ag. if you like. But working together with animals and people is much more enjoyable, less compaction of soil, and people and animals shit, that is they are part of the interdependent relations with the land.

  2. BrianApocalypse | Jan 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm |

    I bet nothing becomes of this. Call me jaded, but over the years there have been many ‘revolutionary’ new fuels/technologies reported that seem like they have the potential to transform civilization as we know it… and then you never hear of them again.

    • Press releases are generally propaganda for the next stage of funding whether it’s a grant renewal or a new round of VC funding. Most new tech ideas do not pan out or don’t get re-funded for reasons having nothing to do with its merits.

      For instance, what if one has a startup to get this tech to market in the quarter where the VC (venture capitalist) herd is all funding variations of iFart to run on the next-gen iPad?

  3. BuzzCoastin | Jan 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

    this is kewl
    and there is also a process that turns organic waste in bio-methane
    widely used in Cali already

  4. If people want to keep eating in a world adapting to climate change, a renewable biodiesel technology is absolutely necessary to deal with the transition from combustion to electric, lots of apps like mechanized agriculture and long-haul trucking where electrical storage tech that’ll do the job is barely in lab stage.

    • kowalityjesus | Jan 22, 2013 at 10:14 am |

      I have the hardest time believing that this will see the market when discarded oils that are balls-easy to make into biofuel see no change in fate. Where is the invisible hand, entrepreneurs? Do we really need to waste more groundwater and topsoil?

      As for the proposition that this is an alternative to fossil fuels that will make an impact on our carbon footprint, its somewhere between throwing pieces of origami into an incinerator, feeding rice-cakes to a 450-pound man, and trying to bail out a foundering ship with a thimble.

  5. lazy_friend | Jan 22, 2013 at 3:18 am |

    I want to see the collecting of gases from land fills fermentation and turning that to fuel. If they can turn dead leaves into efficient fuels, that would be good too.

  6. lilbear68 | Jan 22, 2013 at 4:18 pm |

    several companies are developing processes to extract oil from algae 1 co. that i have invested a lil money in has several patents in this field and has been approved for supplying the navy with fuel and now with their extraction process have developed a process to clean frack water 99% on first pass ‘origin oil’ is the name and IMHO theyare worth a look

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