Fuel from veggies

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

LANE, Okla. -- Rarely has the pain at the pump has been so severe, with a new national average for gasoline hitting $3.23 a gallon. That figure from AAA is the result of a 27 cent jump in just 30 days.

The jump is being blamed on oil prices now at nearly $110 per barrel for the first time.

Here in Texoma, AAA says Oklahoma’s average price per gallon is about $3.10; Texans are paying about $3.14 per gallon, and the future isn't looking any better. The energy department said Tuesday prices may rise this spring to $3.50 a gallon.

But some federal researchers right here in Texoma are looking to the earth to grow crops that could ease U.S. dependence on petroleum.

"It's hard to think watermelon could actually fuel our cars, but researches say that could be a reality in the future," research plant physiologist Vince Russo says.

"We are actually growing oil, just not growing petroleum oil."

Yes, oil -- coming from crops in the ground at the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane, Oklahoma. Scientists are studying ways to produce ethanol in vegetables other than corn.

"When you have all of your eggs in one basket, then there's a good possibility someone's going to come along and either steal that basket or their eggs are going to be broken."

Researcher Vince Russo says they are trying to add watermelon to that basket. He says there's a lot of simple sugar in the fruit that's technically a vegetable, and those sugars are ready to become ethanol fuel unlike the sugar in corn, which has to be broken down first.

How do they study this? Scientists say it's an age old technology.

"In essence, you're looking at a very sophisticated moonshine still."

Scientists monitor levels of sugar and yeast to change the concentration from that compound to fuel. A U.S. Department of Agriculture center is looking at other plants, like sugar cane, mustard seed, and sorghum so the U.S. has a diverse bio-fuel system to choose from.

"If we have a diversified system, we have a sustainable system. If we have a sustainable system we can secure fuel for the U.S."

Scientists say about one third of watermelon crops are not fit to eat, but the meat inside is still usable. Other experts are extracting lycopene that's makes the watermelon red for nutritional supplements. Any byproduct from that could be used to make fuel.

"Ultimately one would like to envision taking the rind, the pulp, and everything and being about to break that down into simple sugars and utilize them as well."

Researchers say they not only plan to use watermelon, but other crops they can grow all four season to be more productive with their land.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Jess on Mar 17, 2008 at 09:20 AM
    JC, if you read my ENTIRE COMMENT, I said a NATIONAL CHANGE, NOT INDIVIDUAL!!!
  • by Sean on Mar 13, 2008 at 07:30 AM
    Is all you care about is price inflation?What about the air the children breath and us also.The purpose is to improve the enviorment.And all you can come up with is price inflation.As prices rise so will pay and so it ends up with no real increase in food cost.it is people like you who don't care and will continue to pollute our world.Maybe if you stopped eating pennicillin tainted beef there you could afford to eat some good vegtables and stop crying about a few cents.Then again do you even care JC????What is it you do agree with, because it sems to me you are always oposing something.
  • by JC Location: Denison on Mar 12, 2008 at 06:28 PM
    Sean, have you bought food lately? It is going up and will continue to when land and food crops are diverted to fuel use. Jess if you want a car that runs on vegetable oil then build one! The Government won't stop you.
  • by Mork Location: Ork on Mar 12, 2008 at 02:02 PM
    People, this is a scam just like the Willie Nelson Bio Fuel. Not gonna work.
  • by Jess on Mar 12, 2008 at 01:36 PM
    Love the idea of using veggies or frying oil as gas for our cars. I saw a 60 minutes program where a guy used $1000 to change his car from gas powered to cooking oil powered. AWESOME!!! Our government would never allow that to be a national change though since that would put the "poor billion dollar gas companies" out of business! They are just squatting on the Middle Class. The poor can't pay taxes, the rich don't, so when you cut out the legs of the Middle Class, YOU GET RECESSION!!!!!!
  • by Sean on Mar 12, 2008 at 11:17 AM
    Food prices will not go up,there will be alot more crops being grown.Then maybe those hard working farmers can make a living instead of foreclosing on thier property.This is not just a local problem it is a world problem and each one of us should take part in improving the enviorment.Do not be scared of change,that is what makes the world go round.In ten years where is it you want America to be?All we have is our enviorment and i know personally i owe my kids that the air they breath to be better.We are all responsible.If you own any type of gasoline powered machine,you are responsible for the emissions let into the air we breath.if we don't change it who will?
  • by Sam Location: Mead on Mar 12, 2008 at 09:49 AM
    The statement that watermelon is a "fruit that's technically a vegetable", sounds just backwards from what I was taught in my 7th grade science class. Back then (60 years ago), a fruit was defined as "anything that contained it's own seed", which would mean watermelon is technically a fruit rather than a vegetable.
  • by Sean on Mar 12, 2008 at 08:03 AM
    This is a good thing.There are also even better efficent ways to make bio fuel.Hemp is the formmost best.But because of it's direct relation to cannabis people turn away from it.You can not smoke hemp it produces no flowers,which are the part of cannabis that is smoked.If you look into states,LIke Idaho and California,and Utah.You will see that hemp is being grown and used as alternitive fuel.Not only fuel but clothes,rope, and all sorts of other useful things,and without harmful effects on the enviorment.So many ways to improve our enviorment only thing we need is an open mind.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 12, 2008 at 07:20 AM
    LOL.......so do beans, but I don't think it would work.
  • by me Location: colbert on Mar 11, 2008 at 11:56 PM
    broccoli makes gas
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