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Newest Green Wonder Fuel: Panda Poop

Researchers from the Memphis Zoo recently completed a year-long study on the glories of panda poop. Their shocking conclusion? It breaks down plant fibers so efficiently that it could be used to turn organic waste into biofuel. Here’s the story:

The microbes in the feces of giant pandas break down super-tough plant material in grass, corn stalks and wood chips, the researchers reported Monday at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Denver. If the technique works on a large scale, inedible plants and plant waste could be used as biofuels instead of edible corn.

Eventually, say the researchers, digestive enzymes found in panda poop will be engineered and set loose on things like corn stalks and wood chips, turning them into simple sugars and then biofuel.

With conventional biofuels and the subsidies that they require wreaking havoc all over the world, unconventional biofuels (using the normally indigestible cellulose that panda microbes attack) may be the best hope that renewable fuels can contribute to the world’s energy needs.  This is good news for the panda lobby; “green jobs” in the panda breeding business may be only a few hundred millions of subsidy dollars away.

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  • Jim.

    Honestly, the little biological factories that are bacteria are probably one of the more promising areas of scientific research.

    Government should fund that research at a basic level. It should absolutely NOT attempt to brute-force the finances any farther. Private capital should take care of bringing it to scale.

    – Government can fund and send Lewis and Clark; it cannot fund and drive all the original 49’ers across the plains.

    – Government in the post-Civil War era could provide grants of undeveloped land to railroads (though this could be and was abused) but it cannot fully fund and establish an interstate rail system, as some are currently proposing.

    – Government can support electronics miniaturization research, as it did for satellites in embryonic Silicon Valley; it cannot create Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, and the rest.

    – Government can develop DARPAnet; it cannot create the content / applications that make up the Internet.

    Government can fund promising areas of research; it cannot demand that a particular area of research (e.g., “green” energy) bear better fruit than other competitors for political reasons. Nature doesn’t work that way.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I say why don’t we let the free enterprise system work and develop the cheapest sources of energy. If panda poop has any potential let entrepreneurs pay develop it, and if it doesn’t let them take the losses. No More Energy Subsides

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