By on September 1, 2009

Move over corn. There’s a new sheriff in Ethanol City and his name is Watermelon. Every year, famers leave about 800 million pounds of watermelons to rot; the fabled orbs simply weren’t perfect enough for persnickety melon buyers. According to Automotive Fleet, USDA scientists in Lane, Oklahoma are converting melon juice from the abandoned fruit into ethanol. Researchers have determined that a 20-pound watermelon can yield about 1.4 pounds of sugar, which can be converted into ethanol more easily than corn. Allegedly. Common Sense Agriculture, a small biofuels company in College Station, Texas, is developing an in-field, watermelon-to-ethanol conversion machine for next season. They don’t say how much ethanol the equipment will have to produce to offset the fuel used to get to the melons, make the conversion and transport the liquid back to base. Here’s hoping this doesn’t lead to any watermelon riots, as Fourth of July and Labor Day picnickers protest a shortage of their fruit of choice.

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16 Comments on “E85 Boondoggle of the Day: Meloncholy, Baby...”

  • avatar

    Watermelon is not a fruit, it’s a berry!

    That said, the critical difference here is that they’re processing WASTE watermelons. I’m pretty sure that if the best of corn processes can turn a slight net energy gain even when growing is included, a process that turns very sugary, very watery plant into alcohol and avoids growing costs would be far more efficient.

    In other words, it’d save some corn land, which could be used for growing tomatoes, which would drop prices… Unless we’ll get a cash-for-etanol program where the government buys unwanted ethanol for triple price, and sets it on fire.

  • avatar


    How do you figure? The more vexing question: is a watermelon a fruit or a vegetable?

    Here’s one man’s view of this conundrum.

  • avatar

    That said, the critical difference here is that they’re processing WASTE watermelons.

    Well, at least for now. If the growers think there’s any chance of making a buck off this, you’ll see entire watermelon crops dedicated to ethanol production. Especially if they’re offered subsidies to do it, like the corn farmers are.

  • avatar

    Somewhere Gallagher is crying.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Watermelons may make a little more sense than corn as an ethanol feedstock. Just don’t let ADM get involved!

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Watermelon is not a fruit, it’s a berry!”

    Uh, actually all berries are fruits.

    “1. any small, usually stoneless, juicy fruit, irrespective of botanical structure, as the huckleberry, strawberry, or hackberry.”

    And by the way, all fruits are vegetables. A vegetable is simply the edible portion of a plant.

  • avatar

    Yes, keep using the much needed food supply. When crop shortages become a crisis the fedgov will “solve” another problem they created.

  • avatar

    Ok, I stand corrected. It’s a pepo berry, which isn’t quite the “true” berry that a gooseberry is. And yes, a “botanical” berry is a subset of fruit, which are edible products of flowering.

    By the way, botanically, strawberry is not a berry! I’m shocked :)

  • avatar

    Make ethanol out of lima beans. Nobody eats those. Leave my watermelons alone.

  • avatar

    Just did the math… 800 million pounds of watermellon makes about 80 million gallons of ethanol (roughly 53,333,333 gallons of gas equivalent).

    That’s 3.5 HOURS of gasoline at current US consumption. A drop in the bucket.

  • avatar


    “Somewhere Gallagher is crying.”


    Maybe he can find employment in the first stage of turning the watermelons into ethanol. Dust off the old Sledge-O-Matic.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    1 lb sugar per 20 lb is about 1/2 as strong as beer or 1/3 as strong as wine before fermentation.

  • avatar

    I would vote for converting broccoli and grapefruit to fuel. Leave corn and watermelon alone.

  • avatar

    The real problem is at the core of the American electoral system. Voters are not equally represented by their votes.

    Should use a simple “majority wins” system and then there won’t be any need for recount. The rural population won’t hold the entire nation hostage.

  • avatar

    Our Government did not create this problem. They were sold this problem by special interests and lobbyists.

    Many drops could fill a bucket.

  • avatar

    I prefer this method:
    Cut small hole in watermelon. Pour in vodka. Put watermelon in freezer for a day or so. Slice and enjoy!

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