Mushroom Car

Auto Industry’s Hunger for Viable
Future Threatens World Food Supply

This is a story that won’t get much mileage for a while, but it’s already covering a lot of road, nevertheless. As car designers try to find more sustainable and less costly ways to outfit their models, they’re looking into some forms of food to replace petroleum-based fuel and car parts.
The trend has already something of a track record. What started with the use of ethanol and cooking oils as fuel, has evolved to incorporate replacement materials in the manufacturing of soft foam seats and dashboards. As much as 10 percent of car parts typically made from petroleum plastics can now be made from soy-based polyurethane foams or “bioplastic.”
For some in the industry, that’s the future knocking on their door. But there’s still a long way to go. The “green” soy-based foam, for example, although takes less energy to make, is not yet biodegradable.
Scientists are also experimenting with mushroom roots and other plant matter, like wheat straw, to put it into a mold shaped like a car part. And with avian feathers, which cooked at just the right temperature, can turn into high-tech hydrogen storage devices.
It’s a promising field within an industry that has seen its ups and downs but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But, as with the increasing adoption of grains traditionally used for food diverted for fuel, the recent developments are not without its flaws and critics.
In the case of ethanol, for example, besides its brutal environmental impact, widespread adoption is starting to seriously compromise global supplies of food. Producers are switching vast portions of land for food to the more profitable fuel production.
So if the search for alternatives to the use of petroleum and petroleum-based products for consumer goods is commendable, it also represents risks to the stability of the global production of food commodities. At the end of the day, it does matter whether this soybean or that mushroom will be used to build another car or to feed another mouth.

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