Panda Poop Could Be Key To Producing Biofuels

DENVER (CBS4) – The waste of one of the world’s most endangered animals may hold the key to producing biofuels. The potency of the discovery had scientists talking about it at a major chemistry conference in Denver on Monday.

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh was at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society for all the fuss about panda feces. It turns out panda droppings could solve one of the major hurdles to producing biofuels.

They are adorable and endangered. Every giant panda birth is a worldwide wonder.

“It’s probably the most pleasant fecal material to actually work with,” Dr. Ashli Brown said.

Brown and grad student Candace Williams discovered something amazing in panda excrement. They analyzed the fresh feces of bamboo-eating pandas at the Memphis Zoo. They found microbes in panda droppings break down super-tough plant materials — grasses, corn stalks and wood chips.

“Once you have the bacteria you can grow them outside of the intestinal track of the panda,” Brown said.

Eventually the scientists want to try engineering the digestive enzymes on a large scale so plant waste could be used to make biofuels, instead of relying on food crops like corn.

“Being able to produce a biofuel from two waste products is pretty incredible,” Williams said.

Recycling animal feces is not a new phenomenon. Statues have been made from panda poop and there are elephant dung paper products and compost.

At the Denver Zoo they’re hoping to use thousands of pounds of animal waste with thousands of pounds of human garbage to power 20 percent of their energy needs. It’s called gasification. A special machine will turn the trash and poop into power.

“There is a future in feces. As you know a lot of animals produce a lot of waste and taking that resource and putting it in something to create a clean renewable energy is an exciting process,” Jennifer Hale with the Denver Zoo said.

The beauty of panda waste is that it could make biofuels cheaper to produce. That could expand their use and help cut dependency on foreign oil. Commercial production is probably years away.

  • Hunter

    How is this a solution to the oil crisis?… Pandas are infinitely more endangered than oil is scarce

    • chuck in st paul

      There is no ‘oil crises’. It’s a phony manufactured scare story. There is enough oil, gas, and coal to run things for hundreds of years even taking growth into consideration. When you add nukes to the mix it works out to around a thousand years of ‘fuel’.

      I think we can come up with an economical and viable alternative in that amount of time.

      • Htos1

        See my post above

    • Russ Felix

      This type of story galls me. Reserchers have spent millions trying to get the bacteria from the gut of termites to make biofuel. Not that it wasn’t an idea worth researching but after spending millions getting no where we have yet another one that wants to try the same thing again. And with Panda Bears isn’t that touchy-feely? The real problem is economy of scale. Bacterial cultures don’t have this. How big a vat would it take to culture enough bacteria to produce a stream of biofuel at the rate of 1000 usg per hour? The answer is as big as a lake. The analogy is appropriate because there are petroleum wells that esentially tap into underground lakes of oil. In the oil industry 1000 gal/hour is not a big number.

    • mark

      To save fuel use this “green” product Mileage Maxx found @ and order online

  • Anon

    Because there are SOOOOO many panda’s they’d be able to fuel the world’s energy need.

    • Mike D

      The solution is SOOOOO obvious. Clone the panda’s, place them into a tiny rusty cage, force feed them with hydroponic bamboo, insert rectal tubes and collect your fuel. Simple.

    • Wasabi Peanut

      “Once you have the bacteria you can grow them outside of the intestinal track of the panda,” Brown said.

      Its called reading BEFORE you comment, you should try it.

      • Dustin Isaacs

        Republican campaign- “NOW” we can!

  • jake49

    You have got to be shiite’ing me

  • Terry Knows Moore

    My Lord these fools keep getting more and more like the idiots who voted for Obama…Electric cars..lets see, where doe the fuel come from to power these clown cars…From Coal…Obama spent 40 billion on green teck…that created 11 jobs and the rest of the money went to his buddies in the green scam that give it back to Obamas re-election.

  • Ronald F. Adams Jr.

    How many miles per pound of Panda Poop?

  • chuck in st paul

    Awww, it’s really simple ya know. We just put those fart collectors on all the cows and we’ll have way more than enough fuel.

    • Brian D.

      Maybe put a fart collector on Barney “The Ripper” Frank.

  • Vince

    This story was poorly written. The true discovery here is that bacteria present in the panda feces can break down cellulose, which cannot currently be used as a portable fuel source. We don’t need the pandas, we just need the microbes in their feces, which can be grown commercially, to turn straw, weeds, wood chips, and agricultural waste into alcohol or biodiesel to fuel our cars.

    • Kip Noxzema

      Why, sure. We’ll spend more dollars and more oil/coal/nuclear plant fuel in making the stuff than what we end up getting.

      We actually end up with a net LOSS.

      Just like the ethanol scam.

  • Grimoire

    Are you people incapable of reading?

    They said they will grow the bacteria in a processing plant. The panda is just where the bacteria was discovered. You don’t need the panda to make more. You people are complete idiots. Learn to read above a 1st grade level, please.

    • Exasperated

      Yes. They are incapable of reading. That’s why all they can do is yell about Obama.

      • Dustin Isaacs

        Given that i “did” read the article I have to say to you that Its our president that relys on a teleprompter. We dont yeall about Obama for $h!ts and giggles. Were as obligated to our opinion as you goons were for yelling at Bush. Ok whatever, “its all Bush’s fault”. I’ve heard this for years! No near the end of Obamas first term we are in an even deeper hole. Wake up and smell the roses you all. That is if you can get past the smell of the $h!t

      • Barry L. Friedberg, M.D.

        Silly you. Don’t you know it’s Bush’s fault?

    • DrRob

      Good point. This fact were actually discovered way back in the Dung Dynasty.

      Also remember that if we were all as smart as you, then we would all be average.

  • FreedomScribe

    Wow! Millions of Obama stimulus dollars to discover that plant eating animal manure (horses, cows, sheep, goats. chickens, rabbits, etc., etc. ) has methane gas and helps make great compost. After November 2012, how will we ever function as a society without them?

    • Ed in Missouri

      This is a plan to take the animals out of the equation and take wood waste and high plant fiber materials and treat them with the bacteria from the droppings. The idea of following animals around and picking up manure or keeping the animals confined isn’t needed.

    • Kip Noxzema

      How interesting when the Environmental Whackos lied about cows causing catastrophic environmental damage by…flatulence.

      Yes, let’s have all those Whackos follow pandas around all day. It’ll keep them busy while the rest of the Libs cry from our successful 2012 campaign.

  • Bubba

    Grimoire… obviously we can’t read between the lines like the people above. Obviously what they are really saying is that they have to chop the pandas into little bits for this to work… If it contains bits of real panda then you know it’s good!

  • Tony Moschetti

    Man, if only the feces coming from this administration has any value we’d soon be the world’s leader, AGAIN! Probably the feces from Obama could fuel half the cars on the roads today. Add Biden’s feces, and the energy crisis is solved.

  • Rod Anders

    I always knew Al Gore was full of sh$t … this proves it !

  • James

    Parasites in the gut of termites also break down cellulose… but termites are not rare nor endangered, which makes them more available to researchers.

  • Sam

    Every living thing has it uses to mankind, we only have to be smart enough to find it’s use.

    • Chet Acetone

      Yes. I’m thankful Sam Adams makes a great beer.

  • Amy

    This is just a money-grab, there is no fuel crisis. New oil reserves have been found and calculated to last us another 700 years:

    • JeddMcHead

      And if we DO run out of oil, coal, etc., we can just squeaze the oil from the greasy tree-hugging protestors (you could probably get a barrel or two per).

  • Gene

    If you take all the waste cellulose and convert it to fuel you will deplete the soil of its nutrients. Guess what? Then you need to use artificial fertilizers to grow your food. This means more petro products, which we all know is a bad, bad thing. A recent Scientific American issue dealt with this problem and pretty much shelved the idea of bio-fuels as impractical for a variety of reasons.

  • Freedom_Isnt_Free

    This is the biggest load of BS I’ve read in eons! It really isn’t worth commenting except it’s so absurd I had to jave my say.

  • RegulateThis

    We already have machines that “turn trash and poop into power”. They’re called VOTING MACHINES!

    • Mark DeNio

      Comment of the day!

  • MadCharles

    Perhaps the American Chemical Society should consider their own poop for bio-fuel. Surely it must contain a magical chemical mix unknown to earthlings.

  • TeeDee

    What a crock!!!!

  • Eric

    I smell an environmentalist scam to lie/force us into spending millions upon millions to save pandas- all the more since a lead researcher on them said it’d be best if we let them die off since they were an evolutionary dead-end.

  • JJ1970JJ

    I love pandas, they look delicious!

  • qwerty

    Feed a panda to a polar bear and use the polar bear’s poop.

  • The Bruce

    Why just go for the panda’s poop when you can throw the entire panda into the wood-chipper and utilize the whole thing?

    Wait, that would be bad, wouldn’t it? I guess it would.

  • tim

    Why dont they just grow hemp and use it as a pertanent biofuel…why not polically incorrectness has blinded theses lost souls

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