News Stories

The Brave Quest for Biofuel

In their search for a low greenhouse gas emissions fuels, scientists have done a lot of embarrassing things: They have measured kangaroo farts and cow farts. Now they are collecting giraffe manure.

Prowling the animal cages at the Audubon Zoo with tweezers and sandwich bags was an unusual and somewhat disconcerting experience for David A. Mullin and his graduate students.

In the January 10th edition of the New York Times, Guy Gugliotta quotes biologist David A. Mullin (as he prowls the zoo with tweezers and baggies) as saying, "I’d never stood next to a giraffe before. They're huge."

Mullin is searching for microbes that can break down cellulose and turn it into biofuel. Once he's collected the dung, Mullin takes it to his lab, where he mixes it with cellulose and bacteria he found in zebra manure.

Biofuel can be made from sugar (and they run their cars on sugarcane in Brazil), but the goal for non-sugar-growing Western countries is starting with plant cellulose (like creating ethanol from corn). Gugliotta quotes energy expert Harvey; Blanch as saying that breaking down cellulose is "the extra step, and it's proving to be a touchy and expensive step. We can do it today, but it's a question of cost. Economics is the driver."

Isn't that always the case? We wish it wasn't--that we could deliver our daily news of the edge and our great radio shows for free--but they cost US money, so that just isn't possible. Which means that if you want us to still be around tomorrow, you need to help us out and subscribe today!



Subscribe to Unknowncountry sign up now