Monday, April 06, 2009

Breakthrough Chemistry, Genengineering, and Synthetic Biology All Make Next Generation Biofuels Something of a Sure Thing

Planet Earth is the only biological world in the known universe, so far as we know. Humans need to learn to harness the vast power within biology to fuel our future evolution to the next level. At the rate our big-spender politicians are digging us into the financial hole, we will need some huge technological breakthroughs -- and some trillion dollar enterprises -- to dig us out. Bio-energy and high value bio-chemicals seem to be a very good starting place.
Researchers are focusing on three key areas - the natural world of insects and bacteria, marine algae and nonfood energy crops - to create a new generation of biofuels.

...Solazyme Inc., of South San Francisco, is among the dozens of firms hoping to capitalize on algae's potential. The firm is genetically engineering strains of algae to grow on sugar cane, wood chips and agricultural residues - without sunlight - in steel tanks.

"We've made tens of thousands of gallons of oil with this process," said Harrison Dillon, president of Solazyme. "We've been road testing our fuels, trying them on unmodified engines."

Solazyme has worked with San Ramon's Chevron Corp. to develop biodiesel made from algae. Last year, Solazyme introduced the first algal-based renewable diesel fuel. It has also developed a jet fuel made from algae.

...Oil companies have also begun to invest in biofuels research and development. The Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley, founded last year, was financed by a $500 million grant from BP, the British oil giant.

...Sean O'Hanlon, executive director of the American Biofuels Council in Miami, said several sources of biofuels have market potential.

"I can't quite call this a Manhattan project or compare it to the '60s space program, but it's rapidly approaching those points," he said. "We have to start applying this science. This is no longer a research project." _sfgate_via_smartbrief

Also check out this energy update from NextBigFuture

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