Running a Van Pool, Lignin Digestion, and Other Fuel News

A few items of fuel news from the practical — van pools — to the experimental — a fungus that shows promise in lignin digestion.

van pool - red minivan

If it's legal where you live, running a van pool is one way you could recoup your fuel costs from commuting.

Photo by Fotolia/Robert Wilson

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The following fuel news stories were drawn from multiple sources.

Running a Van Pool

If you commute 30 miles or more round trip to work, you may be able to eliminate your costs for that travel — and turn a tidy profit besides — by running a van pool, says the Alliance to Save Energy. The idea isn't for everyone (some states prohibit such businesses, for example), but the organization claims that people who do qualify can expect to net a 24% after-tax profit from the enterprise. You can find out more by purchasing Vanpooling for Profit: A Business Opportunity, a government publication which details applicable state regulations and provides instructions for estimating the profitability of such an undertaking.

Lignin Digestion With Fairy Goblets

Maybe fairy goblets will solve our energy problems. According to the USDA's Agriculture Research Service, fairy goblets — a variety of bird's nest fungus found primarily on dead and rotting wood — display an extraordinary ability to "eat" lignin, the ·glue-like substance that holds plant cells together. Fairy goblets, say the scientists, could be used to free the fermentable sugars from leaves, stalks, and stems. Then yet another biological helpmate, yeast, would convert the liberated sugars to fuel-grade alcohol.

In Brief

  • City officials in Duarte, California are powering a 2,100-kilowatt, piston-driven generator with gas from a local landfill's decomposing garbage.
  • The aviation industry is beginning to produce a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft, including Boeing's recently introduced 757's and 767's-which can provide fuel savings of up to 35% over the old 727-and, by the 1990's, a new prop-fan engine now being developed by Hamilton Standard is expected to cut consumption (with no loss in air speed) by an additional 20-30%.