Tala Ko

Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol

Posted on: Tuesday, 17 June 2008

“Our plan is to have a demonstration-scale plant operational by 2010 and, in parallel, we’ll be working on the design and construction of a commercial-scale facility to open in 2011,” says Mr Pal, adding that if LS9 used Brazilian sugar cane as its feedstock, its fuel would probably cost about $50 a barrel.
clipped from www.timesonline.co.uk

Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide ‘renewable petroleum’

Some diesel fuel produced by genetically modified bugs

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal,
33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon
Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the
people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this
is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very
small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips
or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Some of the complex lab equipment used to make some new strains of genetically modified bacteria

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of
bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the
giant Lexus SUV
Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet.
He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls
“renewable petroleum”.
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