#3. Cow Poop
We previously mentioned how scientists were looking for a way to harness the energy from microorganisms that eat electricity and fart methane. So if methane can be converted into power, why not use a source that produces 80 million metric tons of the stuff per year, which amounts to 28 percent of the world's atmospheric methane?
We're talking about cow turds.
Also known as "brownish-green gold."
You see, using the process of anaerobic digestion, farmers are able to harness the power of the turd by having the methane gas separated from the solids and liquids, then converting that gas into heat or electricity. And not only does it produce enough energy to power the farm, but the excess energy produced can be fed back to the power company to be used elsewhere. Like providing energy to literally hundreds or even thousands of homes every year.
It also gives the farmers someplace to put all the shit, because quite frankly, cows poop a lot. Just ask Buzz Gibson, owner of Lochmead Farms in Junction City, Oregon, whose 650 cows produce 40,000 gallons of poop per day. To put that into perspective, in just over two weeks, Gibson would have enough feces to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool. But now that's a good thing, because he uses all of the methane from Mount Shitimanjaro to produce enough electricity to power 300 homes each year.
There's no way we're making a joke here about the city experiencing brownouts. Nope -- not us.
Not only that, but it cuts down on water pollution by reducing the runoff from manure-fertilized fields and puts less methane into the atmosphere. Which is important, seeing as how it is 20 times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
And even if you're not all that concerned with the environment, the digestion process removes the ammonia from the poop, resulting in odor reduction of up to 97 percent, which should be welcome news to anyone other than a farmer who has driven past a freshly fertilized field on a hot summer day.
"That's much better, thank you!"
#2. Jellyfish Goo
One of the staples of science fiction is nanotechnology -- tiny swarms of microscopic machines that we program to do a variety of helpful things. In the movies, they usually murder us. But scientists think that, rather than wiping out humanity, the nanobots might prove useful in medical applications, such as fighting tumors. What they will fight after the tumor is gone is a problem we'll deal with when it happens.
Yep, nothing to worry about there. Just tiny spider robots programmed specifically to destroy human flesh.
Until then, it's just a matter of figuring out how to power the things. Now scientists have finally found a suitable power source: jellyfish. Or more specifically, the shiny fluorescent stuff that makes jellyfish glow in the dark. Once again, it's those ingenious animal-torturing Swedes who made the discovery -- when you put the jellyfish's fluorescent protein on some electrodes and shine an ultraviolet light on it, it creates an electric current. It's not quite enough to power your Hummer, but it may be able to fuel tiny little robots.
Jellybots will quietly end humanity.
On a less terrifying note, the researchers believe that the technology could be scaled up to make cheaper solar cells, making this just one more method of combating global warming by liquefying the more helpless of nature's creatures.
And harvesting their light to fuel our cancer warrior robots. Seriously, think about that.
#1. Human Urine
Every morning, everyone on the planet drags themselves out of bed, staggers to the bathroom and releases a pint or two of precious renewable fuel into the sewage system. Wouldn't it be better and not at all disgusting if we could pee into a generator instead and power our homes for the rest of the day? That's the dream that researchers in the U.K. are looking into making a reality.
Scientists from a British university have published a recent paper arguing for the application of human and animal urine in fuel cells. The studies have found that the technology is possible, though not yet very efficient. We're sure that will change as soon as the university can find enough lab assistants who won't mind handling gallons of human waste for a paycheck every day.
Or maybe just one guy who really enjoys it.
The researchers think that eventually they might be able to create a device that could power a home, or perhaps even a village. The founder of a popular British festival has even said that he would consider powering the event on beer piss, should science find a way.
We could power the whole West Coast with five days of Burning Man pee.
Don't laugh -- human beings collectively produce around 6.4 trillion liters of urine a day, so an effective way of harvesting energy from this golden wonder-fuel might end our fossil fuel dependency overnight, as well as mitigating the effects of one more way we go about polluting the environment. This is all assuming the fossil fuel industry won't mind everyone switching to a fuel source that each of us creates for free, endlessly, each day, inside our own bodies. They wouldn't mind, right?
Oh, they'd find a way to sell us back our own piss. You can count on that.
For more insane ways we're trying to keep the ship afloat, check out 5 Ways People Are Trying to Save the World (That Don't Work) and The 6 Most Half Assed Attempts at Corporate Green Washing.