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Sweet-tooth bacteria = the future of biofuel? 9 Apr, 2008

Biologist at Amyris Biotechnologies are using E. coli bacteria to turn sugar into carbon-neutral gasoline.

By adding enzyme genes to the bacteria, carbon-absorbing crops like sugarcane can be turned into hydrocarbons.

As Amanda Schaffer says in the article “Breeding the Oil Bug” at popsci.com:

Amyris is [...] betting that, with the help of bacteria, the long-term answer to our gasoline woes will actually be… gasoline.

Others, like scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, believe that raw algae used to make biocrude is the best way forward. Biocrude is touted to be “the renewable equivalent of petroleum”. It can be processed at existing oil refineries to make anything from gasoline to chemical feedstocks for plastics.

But our stance remains. The answer to our climate and energy crisis is not to make new things that can be burned in combustion engines. We have to find entirely new approaches by using renewable and natural energy sources like water, wind and sun.

And our belief is that electric cars are the way of the future. Recommended watching: Who Killed the Electric Car?

Learn more about how gasoline is made from sugar: “Breeding the Oil Bug” (popsci.com)

Learn more about algae that makes biocrude: “Algae-Based Fuels Set to Bloom” (technologyreview.com)

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The burning question of biofuels 19 Mar, 2008

Biofuels are a hot topic. And rightfully so. Recent research has indicated that farmers prefer biofuels instead of edible crops because of the high yields – resulting in food shortages. But there’s more.

CNN recently reported that “energy crops destroy natural forests that actually store carbon and thus are a key tool in the fight to reduce global warming.”

Ecologist Joseph Fargione continued the same thread in a Scientific American article, saying that “Any biofuel that causes land clearing is likely to increase global warming.”

Wall Street Journal’s “Environmental Capital” blog notes that “Ethanol appears to come with a higher greenhouse-gas price tag than previously thought — higher, indeed, than fossil fuel.”

And there’s more reading, like “Climate Change and Energy – The True Cost of Biofuels” at nature.org, and “Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt” + “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change” at sciencemag.org.

There’s seldom smoke without fire. We predict that the combustion engine will go bust sooner than later. Seems like our planet sure wouldn’t mind.