In the last several years, the idea of running your car on corn or old frier grease has gone from fringe obsession to mainstream hope; how about running your car on swamp muck?

Researchers from the University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State have found a way to make peat moss into a fuel. This fuel can then either be burned (just like gasoline is in your car’s engine) or used as a component in an alkaline-based fuel-cell.

Peat — the partially decomposed plant matter that forms the dense, spongy soil in wetlands and bogs — is plentiful in Michigan and can be readily converted to a fuel they call “pethanol” using naturally occurring enzymes and conventional fermentation processes.

Because peat forms naturally and requires no fertilization, it’s a benefit over corn [corn and switchgrass — a prairie grass native to Michigan — are the currently favored sources of biomass for producing ethanol], the researchers say. And Michigan, with its swampy environs, has one of the nation’s largest peat reserves.

This project is one of eight being pursued by the Michigan-Ohio University Transportation Center — a coalition of five universities (the University of Detroit Mercy, Wayne State, Grand Valley State, Bowling Green State and University of Toledo) that “aims to increase alternative fuel use, reduce road congestion and improve traffic safety and flow.”

This is obviously a fantastic opportunity for Michigan not only to be on the technological forefront, but also to lay the groundwork for a whole new non-service industry sector for Michigan workers, cultivating and mining peat moss.

Dave-o is a frequent contributor to the Hugs video-cast. He unabashedly supports Poor Mojo’s Newswire, a blog of merit since 1905 — now available electronically!

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