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Escaping oil and driving your car thanks to microbes


A few hours ago I wrote that there were were enormous numbers of positive developments happening in universities and labs that I knew nothing about, and I mentioned a heart monitor development at Imperial College as an example.

A bigger example was just posted by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, a go-to-guy for tech developments and much else, and it is based on the ground-breaking microbial and DNA research accomplished by Brits (and others) over the last sixty years.

The key to the next generation of biofuels isn't growing in a field; it's mutating in a lab. By swapping natural genes in yeast and bacteria for synthetic ones, scientists have tricked the microbes into producing hydrocarbons—creating, in essence, billions of tiny refineries to turn simple sugars into environmentally friendly diesel, gasoline, jet fuel and biocrude.

"We've been making a lot of things using micro-organisms for a long time," says Jim McMillan, biorefining process R&D manager at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). "The real breakthrough here, I think, is recognizing that you can get these microbial factories to produce these very high-energy fuel molecules, like hydrocarbons."

It could be ready in three years or sooner.