Monday, February 10, 2014

Biofuels from bacteria - what could go wrong?

Biofuels. People have created them from household waste, algae, and watermelon. But, at least in the United States, the most popular source of biofuels is good old corn.


Because the algae and household waste biofuels creators aren't good at lobbying for subsidies. As a result, people put ethanol in their cars. And they put high fructose corn syrup - I mean corn sugar - into their drinks.

As you can tell from the links, I've written about biofuels a lot over the last few years. But there's one thing in common for most of the biofuels I've written about - most of them require a lot of space be devoted to the creation of the raw materials for the fuel. You have to plant a lot of corn, or watermelon, to create any appreciable amount of fuel. Even the algae solution requires a mass of algae that is the size of a small country.

What if we could create a biofuel solution that only required a small area? Enter the chemists:

While the debate over using crops for fuel continues, scientists are now reporting a new, fast approach to develop biofuel in a way that doesn’t require removing valuable farmland from the food production chain. Their work examining the fuel-producing potential of Streptomyces, a soil bacterium known for making antibiotics, appears in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. The method also could help researchers identify other microbes that could be novel potential fuel sources.

Sounds good - but doesn't this also sound like the plot of a horror movie?

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