Green-News: Friday 8.08.08
- Apparently, you can make rubber from dandelions and experts believe that using the pesky weed this way will not only save billions of dollars and will be better for the environment. Eric Bland of Discovery News reports:
Scientists from Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC) recently received a $3 million grant to design and build a processing plant that would turn sticky white dandelion root sap into quality rubber for less money than current methods, say the scientists.
"No matter how much chemistry we've applied, we still haven't been able to find an artificial substitute for natural rubber," said William Ravlin, a researcher involved in the project. "We're still harvesting [rubber] the same way they did 1,000 years ago; by cutting into the tree and letting the sap drip into containers. It's not a very efficient system."
Efficiency, according to the Ohio scientists, would be Midwestern farmers in air-conditioned tractors harvesting acres of yellow dandelions with the same machines used to pull tulip bulbs.
- The agave plant is notoriously known for making tequila, but Mexican farmers could use agave to make ethanol too—it’d give your car quite the buzz! More from Andrew K. Burger of Renewable Energy World:
High in sugar content, the project team estimates that varieties of Agave tequilana weber can yield up to 2,000 gallons of distilled ethanol per acre per year and from 12,000-18,000 gallons per acre per year if their cellulose is included, some 14 dry tons of feedstock per acre every year.
These figures far outshine the plants that are dominating ethanol and biofuels' R&D and investment today, not only in terms of potential ethanol yield per acre, but also in terms of energy balance (the ratio of energy in the product to the energy input to produce it), as well as actual and prospective planted acreage.
Corn ethanol, for example, has an energy balance ratio of 1.3 and produces approximately 300-400 gallons of ethanol per acre. Soybean biodiesel, with an energy balance of 2.5, typically can yield 60 gallons of biodiesel per acre while an acre of sugar cane can produce 600-800 gallons of ethanol with an energy balance of 8.0. An acre of poplar trees can yield more than 1,500 gallons of cellulosic ethanol with an energy balance of 12.0, according to a National Geographic study published in October 2007.
- Mega-corporation Monsanto has had no luck with its business of producing an artificial growth hormone for dairy cows. So, they’re selling it. Andrew Martin and Andrew Pollack of The New York Times are on it:
The decision comes as more retailers, saying they are responding to consumer demand, are selling dairy products from cows not treated with the artificial hormone.
Wal-Mart, Kroger and Publix are among the retailers that now sell house-brand milk from untreated cows. Almost all of the fresh milk sold by Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk bottler, also comes from cows that were not treated with the artificial hormone, a spokeswoman said.
Monsanto officials said the decision was not related to the retail trend and that business for the artificial hormone, sold under the brand name Posilac, remained brisk. Monsanto, which is based in St. Louis and is the only commercial manufacturer of the hormone, declined to provide sales numbers.
Selling Posilac “will allow Monsanto to focus on the growth of its core seeds and traits business while ensuring that loyal dairy farmers continue to receive the value of Posilac in their operations,” Carl Casale, Monsanto’s executive vice president for strategy and operations, said in a statement.
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