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Gasoline Grows On Trees

Illustration for article titled Gasoline Grows On Trees

Click to viewApparently scientists (and some of our readers, surely) have known that we can grow oil for years, and not in the grow-corn-make-oil kind of way. The Brazilian Copaifera langsdorfii can be tapped (ala maple syrup) for a natural diesel fuel that requires only simple filtering before being poured into a truck. (This picture is of the tree's cells.) The catch? The diesel only has a shelf-life of about 3 months.

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So how many trees would it take to match the oil output of, say, Saudi Arabia? Check our stats after the jump.

Saudi Arabia Oil Output Daily

11 Million Barrels



Output of One Acre of Copaifera langsdorfii Yearly

25 Barrels



Number of Acres Needed To Match Saudi Arabia Yearly Output

182,500,000 (Total Trees: 18,250,000,000)



Number of Acres in North America Alone

6,050,697,738



Number of Acres in North America Used For Corn (2007)

90.5 million



Amount of American Corn Spent on Ethanol

15% and growing

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Frequency Corn Needs Replanting

Every Season



Frequency Copaifera langsdorfii Needs Replanting

Every 90 Seasons



UPDATE: Gallons of Oil In One Gallon of Diesel

7 (thanks lailoken!)

Some interesting metrics to think about. On a worldwide scale, it doesn't seem all that impossible to alleviate oil shortages with plants...and the natural carbon offsets seem worthwhile. It's just too bad these trees take 15-20 years to mature (by which time we plan on flying around in a hydrogen Jetsonmobile).

Is anyone out there a specialist on the topic who could enlighten us in the comments? [abc via treehugger]



Additional Sources: [world factbook] [nass] [yahoo] [popular mechanics]

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DISCUSSION

Nuclear Energy still has permanent consequences in the form of spent fuel rods, but I'm not suggesting that it's a permanent solution. Hopefully, 20-25 years is enough time to get our photovoltaics to where a solar plant can occupy the same area as a coal plant, and generate more power (nighttime, and all).

The nuclear waste generated during that period would likely be easily contained and disposed of (spent fuel rods don't come pouring out of reactors every week). Then, as soon as we can, we replace it with solar, and start harnessing the power of our star. A few decades later, maybe we'll be able to harness the power of as many tiny stars as we care to create.

Nuclear now, solar soon, fusion finally.