Microbes at the Gas Pump

Bacteria and other organisms can turn waste plant material into fuel for cars.

By Jennifer Cutraro, 00:00 AM April 4, 2006

Scientists searching for an Earth-friendly alternative to gasoline are looking in some of the weirdest places—termite guts, cow stomachs, and rotting logs. These researchers are hunting for bacteria and fungi that can help turn plant waste into a liquid fuel called ethanol.

Many vehicles run on fuels made of a blend of gasoline and ethanol. Experts at the U.S. Department of Energy say that using more ethanol would help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Cars such as this one can run on a fuel called E85, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Cars such as this one can run o...

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