A newly-discovered Patagonian fungus named Gliocladium roseum can produce various alcohols and hydrocarbons, including octane.1 The fungus lives inside the ulmo trees of South American rainforests and has specialized cellular machinery that enables it to digest sugars—including the difficult-to-digest cellulose—and convert some of it into what are now being called “myco-diesels.”
This find presents two profound implications, both discussed in a study published in the journal Microbiology. One is the potential of using this fungus to produce fuel from cellulose, a heretofore expensive process. Biofuel production has been limited due to the need to add cellulose-digesting enzymes to cellulose vats. Existing microbes would then convert the material to “bio-diesel.” G. roseum does this in just one step. The paper’s authors wrote, “Certainly, it is both timely and interesting that G. roseum can utilize cellulose for the production of hydrocarbons given the enormous volumes of foodstuff grains currently being utilized for alcohol (fuel) production.”1
Thus, this new microbe offers a method for producing fuel from inedible cellulose (an insoluble polysaccharide), rather than from edible grains. This has the potential to disengage the fuel market from the food market and reduce the rising costs of both.
The second implication of this discovery regards the formation of crude oil in the earth’s past. As the Microbiology article states:
Most geologists view crude oil and natural gas as products arising from the compression and heating of ancient organic substances over the course of geological time. In view of this work, perhaps it is not unreasonable to speculate that some hydrocarbons in the earth’s upper mantle may have arisen via the fermentation of plant materials by fungi under conditions of limited oxygen.1
G. roseum works its magic best when there is low oxygen, and creation scientists would expect low oxygen levels in the continent-sized mass vegetation burial produced by Noah’s Flood. Researchers have demonstrated in laboratories that vast ages are not required to form such materials as limestone or coal. Diamonds can be produced, given the right chemical environment, in twelve hours.2
If, in contrast to the standard geological models, G. roseum rapidly produced what became crude oil from Flood-buried plant matter, then this is yet one more reason to doubt the evolutionary dogma that the age of the earth must be counted in millions of years rather than thousands.
- Strobel, G. A. et al. 2008. The production of myco-diesel hydrocarbons and their derivatives by the endophytic fungus Gliocladium roseum (NRRL 50072). Microbiology. 154: 3319-3328.
- Coghlan, A. 2003. From greenhouse gas to precious gem in one easy step. New Scientist. 2405: 17.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.
Article posted on November 10, 2008.