Gribbles to the rescue?

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

I haven't written on biomimicry since GreenBuild, I don't think, but the Guardian has a story from one of its frontiers this morning, even though the story does not use the word.

The subject is biofuels, and the potential innovation is using enzymes from the gut of the gribble, a tiny crustacean that bores through pier pilings. The hope is to enlist the enzymes to break down the stout cell walls of plants, which contain cellulose, allowing the conversion of agricultural waste into ethanol.

As you know, much of today's ethanol is made from corn, whose diversion from foodstocks raises market prices and puts a higher premium on making our cars go than on feeding the world, a highly dubious moral stance. 

Even if this project is wildly successful, still remaining will be the problem of getting the ag-waste to the plants. I read a study somewhere that said that to stoke a second-generation biofuels plants, an 18-wheeler would have to arrive at the plant for drop-off every six minutes (sorry, no link; you'll have to trust me. or not).

Coal, of course, travels mostly by rail, so perhaps that's a solution, or perhaps they can make the process so compact that portable biofuel-fired generators could go to where the waste is and plug into the grid. 

The effort's goal is to be producing the second-gen biofuels commercially within 10 years.

Meanwhile, note the biomimicry angle: Instead of starting entirely from scratch in search of a solution, scientists looked to nature to find an organism already doing what needs be done. If they just throw a bunch of gribbles in with the ag-waste (metaphorically speaking), that's considered domestication, akin to having oxen pull plows. Biomimicry is finding an organism that has developed a solution, and then learning how to apply that solution to the humans' problem.

This would be a good place to plug the Biomimicry Guild, which taught me whatever I know. (And if I got anything wrong, it's my fault, not theirs.)

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