Human World

Gary Strobel on a fungus that can turn waste into fuel

Gary Strobel: There aren’t any other organisms that I know of that do this interesting little trick.

That’s Gary Strobel, professor of plant sciences at Montana State University. He’s talking about a fungus that can turn straw and leaves into many of the hydrocarbons found in diesel fuel. Strobel discovered the fungus – by chance – in 2002 in a rainforest of southern Chile.

Gary Strobel: The fungus first of all breaks down the material, and then in ways that we’re not completely sure of yet, it does the conversion to these relatively short-chained reduced gases, basically the components of diesel.

Strobel thinks that with more research, the fungus could prove to be a prolific source of clean, renewable energy. He pointed out that this process uses waste material, and that the starting material literally costs the user nothing in the form of straw, leaves, and so on. It’ll be more eco-friendly and more economical than any process currently involving bio-energy. He hopes his discovery of the fungus will alert people to the importance of preserving the world’s rainforests.

Gary Strobel: Another hugely important use of these natural landscapes is the microorganisms that live there and the promise they have for mankind. And all of that disappears of peoples are governments are not willing to preserve those places in their own countries as parks, reserves, and keep them as naturally intact as possible. I’d like to see people in all nations that have forests to protect them, for the simple purpose of the other economic advantages that they might have, not necessarily the lumber that they may yield of the eco-tourists that might go there, but the microorganisms that they house that are still not identified, not by the tens, not by the thousands, but by the tens of thousands.

Our thanks to:
Gary Strobel
Professor of Plant Sciences
Montana State University

December 22, 2008
Human World

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