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The Fungus That Naturally Synthesizes Diesel

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Posts

  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    You don't really need to scrub carbon from the atmosphere, just eventually stop adding into it. I think CO2 only lasts for about 15 years, but that could easily be wrong. Regardless, though, it eventually seeps out into space. We aren't walking around with the pollution from the Industrial Revolution in the air, for instance. It's even better for methane and the other more damaging greenhouse gasses. They do the worst harm, but last the shortest period of time so if we manage to eliminate them from the equation it'll start paying dividends right quick.

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  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    moniker wrote: »
    You don't really need to scrub carbon from the atmosphere, just eventually stop adding into it. I think CO2 only lasts for about 15 years, but that could easily be wrong. Regardless, though, it eventually seeps out into space. We aren't walking around with the pollution from the Industrial Revolution in the air, for instance. It's even better for methane and the other more damaging greenhouse gasses. They do the worst harm, but last the shortest period of time so if we manage to eliminate them from the equation it'll start paying dividends right quick.

    o_O

    I have never heard of CO2 "seeping into space". The CO2 that was stored in oil reserves becomes part of the atmosphere, and is used in photosynthesis by plants/algaes/etc.

    The problem is that we're increasing the proportion of the atmosphere composed of CO2.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    CO2 does evaporate into space (Boltzmann distribution means some of it will always be able to reach escape velocity), but it's much heavier then oxygen molecules sooooo....it means oxygen is evaporating faster.

    EDIT: It's also a tiny tiny amount.

  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Well yes, some proportion of our atmosphere is lost into space, but not an amount sufficient for it to be relevant to a discussion of climate change.

    The way that post is worded seems to be suggesting that the CO2 we pump into the atmosphere will dissipate into space within 15 years, which is really what I was O_o ing at.

  • tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    CO2 eventually dissolves in the sea, gets turned into shells and stuff, is made into animals and plants which get buried and so forth. We only need a carbon neutral economy (well almost), we don't need a carbon negative economy, time will do that for us pretty swiftly.

    Your puny weapons are useless against me
  • Anarchy Rules!Anarchy Rules! Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    There are several microorganisms that instead of fixing CO2 into sugars, fix it into hydrocarbons. There's a fairly informative section on it in my microbiology textbook, which I don't have with me.

    From what I read it's believed that these microorganims are responsible the production of the shale beds, which are the next source of oil after the wells have dried up. Other microbes can also break down petroleum products and may be used to break down plastics or clean up spills.

    I think the main problem will be the difficultly in culturing these organisms. Most microbes are impossible to culture, or the generation time is extremely long. These may make the organism unviable to use industrially.

    However if the gene(s) for the production of oil were found, and particularly if the gene was plasmid encoded, it may be possible to insert the gene into a more malleable organism such as E. coli.

  • TL DRTL DR Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I have to admit, part of me will be peeved if we just solve energy like that. I can just imagine the FOX pundits now.
    "Yeah, those eco-nazis wanted us to stop living the Blessed American Lifestyle, but obviously that is unnecessary and traitorous. God gave us an easy out, and so we should never think about the consequences of our actions again."

    Although a tank on my roof that slowly generates fuel would be pretty killer.

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  • Jealous DevaJealous Deva Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    The Cat wrote: »
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Farthing wrote: »
    Actually, won't this new diesel be carbon neutral?

    or was that your point.

    Only if it scrubs the carbon out of the air.
    but it goes straight back in when you burn it again. There's no permanent or even long-term shift in C stores from atmo to soil or water or biomass. If we had complete-combustion engines things might be different.



    ...

    You realize that photo-voltaic cells are also at best carbon neutral, right?


    There's nothing about smacking electrons with photons that causes carbon dioxide to magically drop out of solution in the atmosphere simply out of sheer awesome.

  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    It's been noted that some sustainable methods of generating power use more energy and/or require the release of more CO2 in their manufacturing than they're likely to produce or prevent in their working lives.

  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    There are also other substances to worry about. CO2 is hardly the only greenhouse gas out there, and one of the less powerful ones, and unlike many other chemicals released in energy production, isn't a poison.

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  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Yeah, some photovoltaics need nasty quantities of some very unpleasant heavy metals, for example.

  • Jealous DevaJealous Deva Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    japan wrote: »
    It's been noted that some sustainable methods of generating power use more energy and/or require the release of more CO2 in their manufacturing than they're likely to produce or prevent in their working lives.

    Those methods by definition aren't sustainable then...


    That's what people misunderstand about ethanol... Ethanol isn't stupid because you're still burning plant matter releasing CO2 or anything like that (after all the plant had to get that carbon from somewhere, and generally that somewhere is the atmosphere for the most part). Ethanol is stupid because once you go to all the trouble to grow corn, harvest it, process it, etc, you've used such a huge an amount of energy, generally produced from fossil fuels, that you would have been better off just using those fossil fuels to power the cars in the first place.


    Now if you can improve the efficiency of the process to the point where you get more usable fuel than you put in, then it's just a matter of cost. Whether X technology reaches that point in a cost effective manner or not is a question of engineering.

  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I meant to put "sustainable" in quotes.

  • HiroconHirocon Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I know that current methods of producing ethanol from corn are a waste of resources. My hope is that alternative forms of biofuel (algae, and perhaps this alleged diesel-producing fungus) turn out to be energy-positive, and produce substances chemically closer to crude oil.

    We use oil for a lot more than just ground transportation. Even if we electrify a large portion of our ground transportation (which I support), oil will still be useful for things such as jet fuel and plastics. If there is hope for a sustainable future with anything close to our current quality of life, I think that hope is in biofuels.

  • ElitistbElitistb Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Corn ethanol as a fuel has long been shown to be inefficient. It produces too little fuel for too much biomass, you'd have to have huge farms just to produce it and it is not viable. The funny thing is that there are many other plants that perform far better already in production, corn is not even on the table and hasn't been for some time.

    However I am sick of many politicians who trot out corn ethanol every time people bring up biofuels as alternative energy sources. When I think of biofuels, I think of more recent innovations, such as algae that can be grown in sacks anywhere there is sunlight (the deserts might be a decent choice, provided you can try not to seriously screw over the desert ecosystem doing it). This fungus might be an interesting alternative, but the question is how much biofuel does it produce per unit of biomass, how quickly, and how easy is it to grow for mass production?

    Either way, politicians, shut the fuck up about corn ethanol. Few to no people are advocating using it (except maybe the remnant scraps after standard production so that it doesn't go to waste).

    Note: This isn't in response to anyone in this thread talking about corn ethanol. Unless you're a politician.

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  • ElitistbElitistb Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Was just re-reading the wikipedia article for biofuels, and I noticed this:

    "The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (38,849 square kilometers), which is roughly the size of Maryland.[43]"

    I wonder if that is true, and if they actually have their numbers right? It should be pretty easy to get that much landmass, especially if you can spread it around (you don't need a single Maryland sized farm).

    Ah, further down the article it states that it might require 350k square miles at a worst case scenario.

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  • His CorkinessHis Corkiness Registered User
    edited June 2009
    tbloxham wrote: »
    CO2 eventually dissolves in the sea, gets turned into shells and stuff, is made into animals and plants which get buried and so forth. We only need a carbon neutral economy (well almost), we don't need a carbon negative economy, time will do that for us pretty swiftly.
    The longer we keep pumping out CO2, the less true this statement becomes.

  • override367override367 Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Elitistb wrote: »
    Was just re-reading the wikipedia article for biofuels, and I noticed this:

    "The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (38,849 square kilometers), which is roughly the size of Maryland.[43]"

    I wonder if that is true, and if they actually have their numbers right? It should be pretty easy to get that much landmass, especially if you can spread it around (you don't need a single Maryland sized farm).

    Ah, further down the article it states that it might require 350k square miles at a worst case scenario.

    I think we could swing that just in the deserts of Nevada

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  • PongePonge Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Elitistb wrote: »
    Was just re-reading the wikipedia article for biofuels, and I noticed this:

    "The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (38,849 square kilometers), which is roughly the size of Maryland.[43]"

    I wonder if that is true, and if they actually have their numbers right? It should be pretty easy to get that much landmass, especially if you can spread it around (you don't need a single Maryland sized farm).

    Ah, further down the article it states that it might require 350k square miles at a worst case scenario.

    I think we could swing that just in the deserts of Nevada


    Could this be a viable lo-tech economy for the Desert parts of Africa and Australia? How much water does the algae require?

    I think it's more likely that they would cut down even vaster regions of the rainforest for Algae-sack farms, humanity sucks sometimes :-(

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