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Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
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GRAPPLE | WITH ISSUES AND IDEAS

Smart-Meter Backlash | Year of the Draco | Water, Water Everywhere | Summer Barbecues |
Superbugs | Up to Speed

Summer Barbacues Will Solve All Our Problems?


iStockphoto/simonox

AH, THE JOYS OF SUMMER Steak, watermelon, maybe a few shots of tequila—they're everything you need to power the vehicle of your choice. Having determined that corn is more useful as fuel than grilled and slathered in butter, bioscientists are hard at work seeing what else they might pilfer from the picnic table.

HAMTRAK Having searched long and hard for a sustainable fuel source, Amtrak is dabbling with an unlikely solution: beef. The railroad recently concluded a yearlong trial of an 80-20 blend of conventional diesel and bovine-based biofuel, turning the Heartland Flyer between Oklahoma City and Ft. Worth, Texas, into the Heartland Fryer. The experiment, which was deemed a success, used biofuel made from beef tallow—a meat-processing waste product sometimes used for soap. Amtrak says that using rendered cow fat in the fuel tank reduced hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by 10 percent and particulates by 15 percent.

MELON BALLS Up to 20 percent of U.S.-grown watermelons are left on the vine because they're not pretty enough for picky picnickers. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a solution: Juice those rejects and brew them into ethanol. Growers can get about 23 gallons of biofuel per acre—not likely to put a dent in the 9 million barrels of oil per day the nation used last July 4 weekend, but enough to fill up the tractor.

DRIVING AWAY IN MARGARITAVILLE The agave plant is hardy, drought tolerant, and—when properly distilled—tasty with a splash of lime and a dash of salt. It's also the latest hope for a biofuel cure-all. When scientists from the universities of Oxford and Sydney did a life cycle analysis, they found that a tequila tank-filler produced between 24 and 32 grams of CO2 for every megajoule of energy, compared with 85 grams for corn and 96 grams for gasoline. —Dashka Slater


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