Question: Hi I reasonly finished watching The Day Of The Triffids mini-series in which the human race collects oil produced by the plants (The Triffids) to replaces fossil fuels is there a way of taking the concept of using natural accruing things like plants for oil and applying it to real life to create a better aternitve for fuel?

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  1. We are already doing this! There are a lot of plants which can be grown to produce oil, some of these like corn, soy, sunflower and canola are also food crops but there are other plants like jatropha and camelina which we can also harvest oil from. The most simple way to use these oils as fuels is to do a simple reaction called an esterification, this turns the oils into fatty acid methyl esters which can then be used as fuel. Some people actually do this at home with waste oil from cafes and restaurants! A more sophisticated way to make fuels from plant oils is to put them through a refinery, just like conventional crude oil is refined. This allows the product to be more tightly controlled, and tailored for certain uses, like jet fuel.