Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power Biotech Technology

GE Microbes Make Ersatz Crude Oil From Many Sources 525

Posted by timothy
from the hey-I'm-crude-and-oily-so-clone-me dept.
polymath69 writes "According to The Times Online, genetically modified microbes have been developed capable of turning surplus material such as wood chips, sugarcane, or others, not into ethanol, but into a substance which could substitute directly for crude oil. They claim it could be sold for about $50/bbl, and the production process would be carbon negative."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

GE Microbes Make Ersatz Crude Oil From Many Sources

Comments Filter:
  • Why talk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:15AM (#23807909)
    If they are right then they are instant Billionaires, if the process really worked they would be commercializing it and completely destabilizing OPEC. I'll believe it when I see it and the world will be rejoicing.
    • Re:Why talk (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:27AM (#23807979) Journal
      if the process really worked they would be commercializing it and completely destabilizing OPEC.

      The process is likely to work, though scaling up may be a problem, but they're very unlikely to have the field to themselves.

      There are a lot of companies looking at similar ways of producing fuels. Sapphire Energy [sapphireenergy.com] claims to be able to make 91 octane gasoline directly from sunlight, CO2 and algae.

      Many fringe energy sources have become cost competitive with geological oil since it more than quadrupled in price. What will be interesting is how the oil giants respond to this competition.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ihlosi (895663)
        What will be interesting is how the oil giants respond to this competition.

        Buy it, of course. (Pick the right small company and buy some of their stock, now. :) )

      • Re:Why talk (Score:5, Informative)

        by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:38AM (#23808055)

        Many fringe energy sources have become cost competitive with geological oil since it more than quadrupled in price. What will be interesting is how the oil giants respond to this competition.
        And the increased viability of alternative fuels seems to be a playing a role in scaring the Saudis [nytimes.com] into ramping up production.
        • Re:Why talk (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:56AM (#23808177)
          And the increased viability of alternative fuels seems to be a playing a role in scaring the Saudis into ramping up production.



          They're not scared. They just want to keep the oil price at a level where it doesn't negatively impact their investments (which, by now, probably exceed the income they have from selling oil by an order of magnitude). They've probably invested quite a bit of their money into alternative energy, too. It's not like they're lacking spending money.



          And, heck ... they have (sea-) water, they have space ... they're probably going to stay an oil supplier even after the stuff gets made by algae instead of being pumped out of the ground.

        • Re:Why talk (Score:5, Interesting)

          by PhotoGuy (189467) on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:12PM (#23816647) Homepage

          And the increased viability of alternative fuels seems to be a playing a role in scaring the Saudis into ramping up production.

          Wow, I know it's too late to get any mod points so people will read this, but for those who do drill down into replies:

          The Saudi's aren't scared, as another poster pointed out. They are merely trying to poke a bit of a hole into the rampant commodity speculation (and likely price manipulation) that has driven the price of oil (and other commodities) to the point where 60% (according to some estimates) of the price is purely due to speculation.

          Just like the .COM bubble (and the TV bubble and many other bubbles before it) drove stock prices unreasonably high, the same is happening with oil (and food and other commodities) now. The dollar is weak, creating piss-poor interest rates, so investors are flocking to these commodities. The normal trading prices for oil used to be subject to oversight and regulation (all major trades had to be reported), to ensure that the oil companies couldn't manipulate prices. Enron was key in creating a loophole where oil futures traded on the OTC (over the counter) market were not subject to tracking and oversight. So the oil companies are likely manipulating and driving prices high through that mechanism.

          Normally prices are driven by the economics of supply and demand. The Saudi's are effectively calling "bullshit" on the current prices (and unprecedented oil reserves held by the US), by showing they can easily up the supply. Yes, they are looking out for their interests, but if the poke a hole in the price speculation and price manipulation that is going on, the average consumer is going to benefit greatly (at the expense of big oil). They want to sell oil to us, and they know the current price isn't reasonable nor good for business. More power to them. Hopefully the current prices will scare us into more research of alternative fuels. But the reality is that the consumers, businesses, and general economy relies upon oil today, and is being seriously hurt by the oil companies' price manipulation.

          And the run-up of world food prices is supposedly due to a similar speculation in food futures (where greedy North American and European investors' commodity speculation is leading to starvation in some countries).

          Good article on it, here [rediff.com]. I think I originally came across that via Digg, which seems to be more useful lately than /. Sigh...

          Will the oil bubble burst soon? Hard to believe the OTC loophole and other issues will be addressed as long as a man with oil interests, and from a Texan oil family is in the Whitehouse. Talk about a conflict of interest.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SkyDude (919251)

        if the process really worked they would be commercializing it and completely destabilizing OPEC.

        The process is likely to work, though scaling up may be a problem....

        I seem to remember that when Yahoo was looking for capital investment, VCs started throwing money at a company that had no product and no sales. Same happened when they went public. So, here's a company that has a product that can replace fossil fuels at a time when fuel prices are sky-high and they're having problems scaling up?

        Maybe they should start sending spam to generate funds.

        • Re:Why talk (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MrMickS (568778) on Monday June 16, 2008 @07:31AM (#23808837) Homepage Journal
          During the dotcom boom my uncle developed an aseptic filling plant and had an order from Mars. In order to be able to fulfill the order in its entirety he needed additional funding in the region of £1m. He failed to secure the funding. This at a time when people where being given millions for just adding '...and its on the internet' to the end of any physical process.

          The reason he failed to get funding. In his case despite having a customer lined up the possible investors saw a greater potential return from other means. A single dotcom success would far outweigh the return they would get from this physical process.

          The point I'm trying to make is that until they've been able to prove the process on an industrial scale they are going to find it difficult to attract investment. Especially when speculation on the oil price is reaping such rich rewards at the moment.
      • Re:Why talk (Score:5, Funny)

        by heritage727 (693099) on Monday June 16, 2008 @07:12AM (#23808711)

        What will be interesting is how the oil giants respond to this competition.

        DMCA takedown notices?
      • Re:Why talk (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kabocox (199019) on Monday June 16, 2008 @08:49AM (#23809893)
        Many fringe energy sources have become cost competitive with geological oil since it more than quadrupled in price. What will be interesting is how the oil giants respond to this competition.

        Come on they'll pull a TimeWarner-AOL merger that actually makes sense for their industry. The Oil/Energy companies aren't going anywhere. Those that have only oil from a single source or subset of politically liable sources as their main energy source of product may die off. Those "energy" companies that were oil, but have invested in other forms of energy production will make the natural shift to what is more profitable, less political liable, and better for their company's long term bottom line.

        It's sort of like how none of the major car companies went all out for either electric or hybrid cars until some one else figured out how to profitable sell them. Then all the sudden all sorts of car makers have or are looking into hybrids. The same mindset is behind those in the "energy" companies. The really funny part is as far as the big boys in that field are concerned about, it may not affect them too much. Look it up, there is tons of companies competing in that field and as long as these types of companies can say we need X input to produce Y grade of oil, they'll likely fit right into the entire over all oil/energy industry. (Expect the big boys to buy ten percent of any given handful of these companies right before that really hit it big.)
    • Re:Why talk (Score:4, Interesting)

      by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:51AM (#23808141)

      the process really worked they would be commercializing it and completely destabilizing OPEC
      Saudi Arabia alone produces more than 10 million barrels PER DAY. How on earth do you think these guys are going to compete with, let alone destabilize OPEC overnight? They've got to make some of it before they become "instant billionaires." Sheesh, give em a chance.
    • Re:Why talk (Score:4, Funny)

      by Bonobo_Unknown (925651) on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:31AM (#23808417)
      Great! Let's chip the Amazon!
      • Re:Why talk (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Z34107 (925136) on Monday June 16, 2008 @08:25AM (#23809555)

        Great! Let's chip the Amazon!

        Insightful?

        Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.

        Right. Because it's cheaper to burn a rainforest and ship it back to the United States than it is to take what farmers are throwing out for free. And, if the point is to turn the woodchips to oil, I doubt you'll make more fuel from your Amazonian rain forest than you consumed shipping it.

        Nice try, though. Way to hate Western Civilization.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anspen (673098)

      If they are right then they are instant Billionaires, if the process really worked they would be commercializing it and completely destabilizing OPEC. I'll believe it when I see it and the world will be rejoicing.


      As with all these kind of technologies it will take time (either 4-10 years or forever). But at 50$ per barrel it wouldn't exactly destabelize OPEC (production cost of most middle east crude is around 2-6 $).

  • by tomalpha (746163) * on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:15AM (#23807913)

    <science scare story hat>

    Two quotes FTA:

    • "...capable of turning surplus material ... into a substance which could substitute directly for crude oil."
    • "They start out as industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli..."

    E.Coli, usually harmless etc, commonly found in the gut and able to survive brief periods outside it's normal (animal intestine) environment. So if this escaped into the wild, and you accidentally consumed a small amount, would it turn you into crude oil?

    </science scare story hat>

    No seriously, I can see tabloid newspapers having a field day with this: "Genetic Frankenstein Bugs Ate My Grandmother!"

    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:24AM (#23807947)
      So if this escaped into the wild, and you accidentally consumed a small amount, would it turn you into crude oil?

      Not likely. But it'd probably give you flatulence of unprecedented proportions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      E.Coli, usually harmless etc, commonly found in the gut and able to survive brief periods outside it's normal (animal intestine) environment. So if this escaped into the wild, and you accidentally consumed a small amount, would it turn you into crude oil?
      Ersatz Crude is people! Now the Matrix movies finally make sense!
    • by DrYak (748999) on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:07AM (#23808243) Homepage

      E.Coli, usually harmless etc, commonly found in the gut and able to survive brief periods outside it's normal (animal intestine) environment. So if this escaped into the wild, and you accidentally consumed a small amount {...}
      {...} you will suddenly find OPEC representative knocking at your door, ready to pay you $WADS_OF_CASH for the privilege of processing your toilet's waste !

      {...} each time you go to the "throne", you will be literally sitting on a gold mine !

      {...} some /.ers tend to pulling numbers out of your ass, you will be pulling millions out of yours !

      {...} you will be the living final proof that a turd, given enough polishing, could indeed be a golden turd !

      {...} some people pee on their car to unfreeze the keylock on cold morning, you would do it to fill the tank !

      etc, ad nauseam.

      -----

      Ok. Scatological jokes aside : as E. Coli is a comensal bacteria, our body have evolved and got used to have it inside. We naturally have lots of means to control the important and diverse population of bacteria living in our guts - including having an immune system that keeps the bacteria on the "outside" side of the gut and not entering inside the body itself and including already having an amazing amount of bacteria already living there and leaving less free place for new comers.

      The only exception if one of the newcomer specie that comes into the gut is producing some toxin (food poisoning is actually due to the toxin, not the bacteria themselves. Often the bacteria don't survive digestion or are already dead to begin with - that's why charcoal and yeast are more efficient than antibiotics to handle them).
      This GE bacteria is simply fermenting garbage into something that looks like oil. You may develop a mild diarrhoea, but there aren't horrible self-digesting-into-a-small-pile-of-gunk short-term risks of having oil in your guts, and the usual defences will take care that it all stays in the gut.

    • Re:Public perception (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:30AM (#23808415)
      lab E. coli strains != pathogenic E. coli [wikipedia.org]

      I work w/ lab E. coli every day and have never gotten sick from it and I'm sure I've ingested a few of them in my lifetime.
  • obviously, solar energy is the ultimate renewable energy source

    the ideal though is not to store or transmit that eletrically, but chemically (storage density, thermodynamic efficiency, etc)

    i'm looking for the guy who turns poor fishermen in the philippines and indonesia (or anywhere access to shallow seas is easy) into the next sultans of brunei:

    1. give them a bunch of specailly shaped clear plastic jugs, mini floating stills
    2. they put a little gm algae inside the jugs
    3. they throw the jugs in the ocean with anchors
    4. they come back a month later, pick up the jugs
    5. they are processed dockside directly into octane, in a low-tech facility

    the guy, or gal, who figures out how to get algae to directly produce octane saves the world from itself geopolitically, environmentally, developmentally. then we have enough breathing room to master fusion

    right now, the world is in an energy crunch. we will have more wars, the environment will suffer, there will be more poverty, until we get our act together on a truly large scale renewable energy source. too much renewable energy sources look at so far have been boutique, things that can never scale up

    the cheap dig-it-out-of-the-ground era is over. oh of course, there's still more of it to dig out. its just too damn deep, and getting deeper every day, to call it cheap anymore

  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:39AM (#23808057)
    I don't see anything in TFA about where the difference in input carbon and output carbon goes. I must be missing something. But if it really decreases the amount of carbon we put out, I'm all for it.

    There's another problem I see though. More crude. The real problem behind high gas prices isn't a lack of crude, but the lack of refineries. Global production of crude excedes demand by about 2 million barrels per day, but refineries are unable to keep up with demand for gasoline and other by-products. Besides which, we aren't running out of crude anytime soon anyway. By the time we get more refineries online, gas prices will drop, and demand for this kind of alternative "fuel" will drop as well. Until then, they have to figure out a way to refine it using infrastructure that's already maxed out.
    • Peak oil... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:01AM (#23808203)

      . Besides which, we aren't running out of crude anytime soon anyway.
      Read this. [wikipedia.org] Theoretically we are not going to run out of fossil fuels any time soon. The problem is that we will start to feel the crunch well before we physically run out of oil. The rate of production will start to slow and with economies like China and India growing at the rate they are doing today, demand is going to outstrip vastly out strip supply well within our lifetimes. This is going to have major economic, social and political effects which in turn, sooner or later, is going to drive massive research into alternative fuels and the adoption of these alternatives. The question is really how long before we run out of sources of oil that are so cheaply exploitable that oil and gasoline remain a cheaper option than alternative fuels.
      • Re:Peak oil... (Score:4, Informative)

        by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:15AM (#23808317)
        Yeah, the old peak oil spectre. Ya know, in the 1920's people thought that we would run out of oil in 20 years. Then there was a glut. People thought we were going to run out of oil in the 1970s. Then there was a glut. The life-index of oil (reserves/production) in 1948 was 20.5 years. In 1973 it was 32.2 years. In 2005 it was 38 years. We are not anywhere near peak oil, nor are we going to begin running out of oil anytime soon, not in our lifetime not in our children's lifetime.
        • Re:Peak oil... (Score:5, Informative)

          by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever&nerdshack,com> on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:40AM (#23808483)
          Well, except it's happened provably in two places and it's now happening to the world as a whole.

          Starting in 1974, oil output from Texas oil fields began declining 4-ish percent per year. Despite the deployment of every available technology and minimal to almost no drilling restrictions, the decline continues. The same thing happened in the North Sea in 2000: Production peaked, and now production there has been falling about 4 to 5 percent per year for 8 years.

          At this time, there is virtually no spare capacity in the middle east to pump more oil. Any that they can bring online will go more to covering rapid declines in North Sea output than increasing supply. The Saudis were hoping to increase production by about 1.2 million barrels/day this year, and it looks as if they'll be doing damn well to get another 500 thousand; We're looking at a loss next year.

          The peak is real and most likely imminent.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by oodaloop (1229816)
            Yeah, in Texas, where over 1,000,000 oil wells have been sunk. By comparison, Saudi Arabia has 1,500. Texas was over-welled from the start, so oil pressure was reduced, and the total amount of recoverable oil is lower.

            There's no, or very little, spare capacity in SA and around the world because of the just-in-time business model from Japan. This made sense when oil prices were low, but now it's helping to drive prices up. And SA has been neglecting thir oil infracture for years since nationalizing it
    • Refineries (Score:3, Informative)

      by wytcld (179112)
      Global production of crude can't possibly exceed refinery capacity by the 2 million barrel per day. Where would the 2 billion barrels, each day, every day, be going? Or are you arguing that potential production exceeds refinery capacity?

      While not many new refineries have been built in recent years, the capacity of existing refineries has been increased quite a bit. Refinery capacity is fine.

      What's not fine is oil field capacity. It turns out the Saudis have been lying about how much more oil they can pump. [cnbc.com]
  • If? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DeanFox (729620) * <spam,myname&gmail,com> on Monday June 16, 2008 @05:48AM (#23808123)

    If they are right then they are instant Billionaires, if the process really worked they would be commercializing it and completely destabilizing OPEC. I'll believe it when I see it and the world will be rejoicing.
    Oh they're right and they will be billionaires but not instant. They've been working on this for years, invested 10's of millions of dollars and took huge risks. The American way (and dream). They're planning their first production sites within 2 years.

    This technology has been around for awhile although biofuels usually produce ethanol. Just a molecular side chain away from what these guys came up with. They get 1 barrel from 40sq feet of space. At our current rate of 143 million barrels a week it would take 205 sq miles of manufacturing plants to satisfy our current needs. About the size of Chicago. Probably about the same square footage it you total up all the Walmarts. Very doable.

    They got us here in spite of all the government roadblocks. IMHO we would have got here a lot sooner if we hadn't laughed Gore off the stage and I suspect progress will increase exponentially when Obama takes over.

    -[d]-
    • Re:If? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SlashTon (871960) on Monday June 16, 2008 @07:34AM (#23808881)

      At our current rate of 143 million barrels a week it would take 205 sq miles of manufacturing plants to satisfy our current needs. About the size of Chicago. Probably about the same square footage it you total up all the Walmarts. Very doable.
      I could not resist... Using the average size of a Wal-Mart Supercenter and just for simplicity, assuming the Discount Stores and Neighbourhood markets are the same size (they are a lot smaller). We get (as of the start of this year): 3550 Wal-Marts times 18302 square metres = 65 million square metres (rounded up) = 25.1 square miles.

      So it actually takes eight times the square footage of all Wal-Mart stores in the USA.

      Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walmart [wikipedia.org]
      And using Google calculator for the conversion.

      Now go ahead, mod me anal-retentive (using the colloquial meaning of the term of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anal_retentive [wikipedia.org]).
    • Re:If? (Score:4, Informative)

      by rho (6063) on Monday June 16, 2008 @08:11AM (#23809359) Homepage Journal

      IMHO we would have got here a lot sooner if we hadn't laughed Gore off the stage and I suspect progress will increase exponentially when Obama takes over.

      That's an appeal to magic. Replace "Gore" with "God" and you're a fundamentalist.

  • by Kamineko (851857) on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:05AM (#23808233)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OILIX [wikipedia.org]

    Snake? Snake?! SNAAAAAAAAKE?
  • Could be $50/bbl... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 6Yankee (597075) on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:23AM (#23808373)
    ...but when the real thing's $140 and you've all those development costs to recoup, why not charge $120 for the bug-crap variety?

    I doubt we'd see this at $50 for a good while, not until it drags the price of real oil down to similar levels anyway.
  • by GayBliss (544986) on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:23AM (#23808375) Homepage
    If some of this bacteria finds its way into the ocean or any other body of water, would we have a perpetually expanding pool of oil that can't be stopped?

    I didn't see anything in the article about whether or not this bacteria is capable of reproducing on its own. Hopefully it can be controlled in some way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tyger (126248)
      Well see, that's where you develop a bacteria that consumes crude oil and produces something else.

      Then a bacteria that consumes that something else and ... you get the idea.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      It's a GE form of E.Coli. These are evolved to live in the gut and even after genetic tinkering have a fairly narrow set of conditions in which they can survive. If they find their way into the ocean, the most probably thing that will happen is that they will die. Alternatively, they will contaminate their environment with oil, and either die or kill off all of their potential food sources then die.
  • by toby (759) * on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:43AM (#23808503) Homepage Journal
    Thanks for finding another reason to illegally clear the Amazon. [flickr.com] (Cash crops already being a major driver.)
  • by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever&nerdshack,com> on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:51AM (#23808557)
    Does their microbe create a crude oil substitute or does it create gasoline/diesel substitute? Because there's a giant difference. A crude oil substitute would have to have an assay remotely compatible with "real" crude if you're not going to end up synthesizing everything else.

    Do the bacteria excrete asphalt (although this is less an issue with the heavy crude they're getting now being full of the stuff)? Or the lightweight components of crude? Or kerosene?

    Now I'm not saying this wouldn't be an impressive move, and if it can help take up some of the vehicle fuel slack long enough to move to alternatives then great, but we have to be realistic. Take away crude oil and you have to slip another synthesis step in before almost every industrial process to replace the molecules that were nearly ready-made in oil. And since a lot of it will be synthesizing molecules from scratch, it'll suck a /huge/ amount of energy from one source or another.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday June 16, 2008 @06:53AM (#23808571) Journal
    Crude oil often has contaminants like sulphur, which this process can simply leave out.

    -jcr
  • by bxwatso (1059160) on Monday June 16, 2008 @08:05AM (#23809283)
    Just because they say it can be done for $50 does not make it so.

    Does the $50 include the land and equipment to build a commercial facility?

    Does the $50 include the amortization of the start-up costs in developing an industrial scale process?

    Does the $50 include the cost of gathering and delivering huge quantities of raw materials?

    Does the $50 include the cost of environmentally safe disposal of waste materials?

    The price of crude oil includes all of these costs.

  • by Herger (48454) on Monday June 16, 2008 @08:17AM (#23809449) Homepage
    There are a number of biomass-to-fuel technologies in the prototype to production stage, many of which have been featured on Slashdot in the past. Here's a sample:

    Changing World Technologies (http://www.changingworldtech.com/) -- high-pressure non-catalytic conversion of biomass to Diesel fuel -- prototype online in Missouri
    Range Fuels (http://www.rangefuels.com/) -- cellulose -> syngas -> blended alcohol -- proven, 20-million-gallon/year plant under construction in Soperton, GA
    AlphaKat (http://www.alphakat.de/) -- biomass/plastics -> Diesel fuel via metal-catalyzed high-temp, high-pressure reaction. Plants under construction across Europe
    MagneGas (http://www.magnegas.com/) -- sewage(!) -> natural gas + surplus heat via electrolytic conversion -- you can buy or rent a working production unit from their web site

    I note that all of the above use a high-temperature, high-pressure reaction process to produce fuel. The GE process has the advantage over the first three in that it can handle water better than the first three processes above (IIRC, most Fischer-Tropsch type plants have a low tolerance for water in the reaction vessel, which is bad for biomass conversion unless you spend energy to dry it first. E.g. AlphaKat says their process doesn't work with more than 12% water by weight). The other major advantage is that fermentation typically occurs under more gentle and manageable conditions, i.e. near room temperature, near atmospheric pressure and aqueous rather than solvent/metal-catalyst based. However, the down side of their process is that it's not self-contained and not truly carbon-negative unless you use plant biomass as a feedstock, though if you grew algae in an adjacent tank you could probably use that as your feedstock and harvest CO2 from the air. Actually that would be an ideal solution because you could genetically tune your algae to have a specific composition and tune your fermenter bacteria/yeast to efficiently break down your algae. Hopefully that will be in the next phase of this project. Though we'll probably have to make do with catalyst- and pressure-converted biomass until these guys can perfect their process.

  • A word of caution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Monday June 16, 2008 @08:28AM (#23809597)
    This sounds great, but a note of caution is needed. If they have developed a microbe that basically can eat through any organic material, what they perhaps have invented is a new pathogenic superbug. Think about it, if this can eat through organic material as such, what would happen if it got loose somehow and got into a field of crops, could this start eating away and destroying crops? Have you engineered a new super agricultural pest? This could happen completely unintentionally, not to mention the potential for intentional weaponisation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eravnrekaree (467752)
      I should add that whenever we change the characteristics of an organism, we change how it interacts with its environment, we run the risk of causing severe environmental problems, as these organisms can reproduce out of control and there is no mechanism to keep it in check. It happens all the time when exotic species are transported to hawaii or australia, where they have no natural predators, when they are introduced to these environments they are quite out of place and can destroy local species. These mic
  • by VitrosChemistryAnaly (616952) on Monday June 16, 2008 @09:38AM (#23810537) Journal
    From TFA:
    The company claims that this "Oil 2.0" will not only be renewable but also carbon negative - meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

    OMG! Isn't anyone thinking about the ramifications? I'm talking about Global Cooling!

    Won't someone please think of the children?!?

    Seriously, though, I nearly spit out my coffee from reading the phrase "Oil 2.0". What a creative name. *rolls eyes*
  • by SlashDev (627697) on Monday June 16, 2008 @10:12AM (#23810997) Homepage
    ... How they produce energy. It is a matter of supply and demand and trade. If any fuel is a publicly traded commodity, in today's politics and turmoil, it will become expensive simply because of hedge funds and such.
  • by Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) on Monday June 16, 2008 @11:01AM (#23811693)
    So are these microbes genetically stable? They're not going to mutate in a few years into something dangerous? Can they properly contain said microbes, and have their finger on a sure-fire "killswitch" to annihilate the entire population of them if something goes wrong? Extremist questions I'm sure, but if you're in engineering and don't believe in Murphy, then you're a fool.

Some people carve careers, others chisel them.

Working...