State Fair animal crap and crap you eat are tested as fuel sources

George Johnson, an environmental scientist, is trying to find out whether there's more energy in recycled animal dung or that nasty-ass but oh-so-good State Fair food.

Every day, he dons what looks like an airtight white spacesuit and plows through a pile of manure at the Minnesota State Fair. Then he picks up leftover corn dogs, cotton candy, fried onions, and delectable fair food. He takes his load of diverse crap back to the University of Minnesota, where researchers are testing which materials are best suited for conversion to renewable energy.

Back at the U, the waste is mixed with an "anaerobic digester." What's that, you say?

The digester breaks down organic materials like food and animal waste, Johnson says. Methane gas created in the process can be used to fuel generators that produce electricity. The leftovers are recycled as animal bedding, compost, or fertilizer.

Johnson's company, Short Elliot Hendrickson, says if it works, the project could serve as a pilot for the whole state. The idea is that farmers could use it to recycle their own, um, stinky products.

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