Biofuel From Varanasi Cows

VARANASI, India — When they’re in season, cow patties sell like hotcakes.

Buffalo chips, cowpies, gobar, manure, dung, poop — whatever its name, animal feces are utilized around the world as a cheap, abundant and readily available source of fuel.

I had read about it in the Jon Krakauer book, “Into Thin Air.” The marvelous true-life tragedy that loomed large in my imagination described trekkers en route to Mount Everest burning yak dung at their campsites to warm themselves and to make hot tea. I had never seen it in used in person, much less seen it in its production phase.

Yet here on the ghats beside the Ganga, a dark-skinned gentleman labored ceaselessly shaping the animal waste into hand-sized discs and laying them on the pavement to dry in the sun. Without missing a beat, he looked up at me, and resumed his work.

The bulls—t is also big business online.

On one site, packages of bovine biofuel sells for 100 rupees to 400 rupees, or roughly $2 to $8.

“Around Diwali, when people do a lot of pujas in their homes and workplaces, there is a lot of demand for cow dung cakes,” one woman said to Gulf News India. The earthy smell, she added, evoked in some people memories of their rural pasts.

“It reminds them of the old days,” she said.

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