Where does construction lumber come from?
It's the sugar molecule that ties us all together, all us living things, from plants to fungii to animals like us.
Water from the roots combine with light from the Sun and CO2 from the air in the leaves to produce C6H12O6, or sugar molecules. Those sugar molecules are stacked up like bricks to make every structure in the tree. A tree's wood is about 75% cellulose with the other 25 percent being something called "hemi cellulose" and "Lignin" which is the glue that holds wood cells together in wood.
The sugar molecule isn't straight. It's actually a pentagon formed by carbon atoms. It's the location of that 6th carbon atom that determines whether you have alpha sugar or beta sugar. If you stack up alpha sugar molecules like bricks, you make cellulose. If you stack up beta sugar molecules like bricks, you make starch. Both can be broken down into sugar moelcules again by the right kinds of organisms. For example, when wood rots, the wood rot fungus (called "Serpula Lacrymans") is merely recyling that wood to use the sugar for it's own metabolic processes. Similarily, goats and cattle can eat cellulose and break it down into sugar to fuel their bodies just like we can eat starch (corn, bread, rice) to fuel our bodies.
It's when we learn to convert cellulose and plant waste into sugar moelcules that our energy crisis will be over. Until now, we've only been able to convert starch into sugar with enzymes and then ferment that sugar into alcohol (corn to ethanol). When we learn to convert cellulose into sugar like the wood rot fungus does, then scrap wood from building demolition, old tee shirts (cotton is nearly 100% cellulose), autumn leaves and grass clippings, books, newspapers and magazines, your old furniture and all the sawdust from the lumber mills will be the feedstock for our new fuel factories. We will be recycling virtually every plant byproduct into fuel. And, since we won't be adding any new carbon atoms to the atmosphere by burning that ethanol, it'll be environmentally friendly.
The next Exxon will have fuel factories mounted on a fleet of about a dozen semitrailers that do various agricultural circuits, collecting tobacco plants off the ground after harvest in Virginia, cotton plants in Alabama and Mississippi and then going down to Florida to collect the waste from the citrus harvest, and converting all that plant waste into alcohol in the field and delivering it to company owned gas stations along the route.
And that new technology, just like most new technologies, is going to create lots of new spin off industries and jobs. We're making everything from plastic grocery bags to asphalt now from a steady supply of crude oil. We'll be making other things from a steady supply of starch, cellulose and ethyl alcohol. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 06-21-2008 at 12:38 AM.