Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gas Prices Falling... What's Next

I've added a little gas watch marker on the left side of the blog there. Just to keep track of local gas prices. I probably should have done it a few weeks ago, just to see how dramatic the drop has been.

Time will tell what it all means, of course.

There's an interesting bit o' information floating around about a new thing called myco-diesel. Here's a little article from the blog Peak Energy

" A fungus that makes biodiesel as part of its natural lifecycle has attracted the attention of American scientists wishing to tap into its potential. The fungus has been discovered living in trees in the Patagonian rainforests and is believed to be unique in its ability to synthesize a variety of substances useful in fuel production.
"This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances," said Professor Gary Strobel from Montana State University. "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."
The fungus, which has been named Gliocladium roseum, produces a number of different molecules made of hydrogen and carbon that are found in diesel. Prof Strobel said that the fungi's unusual ability to churn out a plethora of hydrocarbons were discovered quite by accident. His team was conducting experiments on the Ulmo tree, known to play host to a variety of novel fungi, and the fuel-producing fungus resisted chemicals that wiped out the others that were present and began producing its own gases - which turned out to be rich in diesel-like compounds.
"The results were totally unexpected and very exciting and almost every hair on my arms stood on end," said Prof Strobel. Many microbes produce hydrocarbons and fungi that live in wood often seem to make a range of potentially explosive compounds. In its natural habitat - the rainforest - the newly discovered fungus produces lots of long chain hydrocarbons and other biological molecules. But when the researchers grew it in the lab, it produced fuel that is even more similar to the diesel we put in our cars.
"When crops are used to make biofuel they have to be processed before they can be turned into useful compounds by microbes," said Professor Strobel. "G. roseum can make myco-diesel directly from cellulose, the main compound found in plants and paper. This means if the fungus was used to make fuel, a step in the production process could be skipped."
"The discovery also questions our knowledge of the way fossil fuels are made. The accepted theory is that crude oil, which is used to make diesel, is formed from the remains of dead plants and animals that have been exposed to heat and pressure for millions of years," said Prof Strobel. "If fungi like this are producing myco-diesel all over the rainforest, they may have contributed to the formation of fossil fuels."

Wouldn't life be grand if this were the breakthrough the biodiesel push needed? A little fungus that can break cellulotic materials down into diesel fuel. Cellulotic materials like the grasses growing in the ditches along our highways and byways. We would no longer need to feed our edible corn into the fuel market. Instead we could use the cornstalks and soybean waste plant, and maybe even grow whole crops of switchgrass to be made into diesel. Of course, we would still need to try and make diesel cleaner, but it would be a start. It would be a start.

Imagining an America free of OPEC rule... hmm, what a nice place to live!

More Later

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