Gasoline: The New Renewable Fuel

By on August 1, 2007

This ought to create some interesting debate; LS9, a San Carlos, CA, based company, has developed a method of producing crude oil using genetically engineered bacteria. And it doesn’t take millions of years, like the old-fashioned natural method.

LS9’s designer bacteria eat ordinary agricultural feedstocks, then excrete hydrocarbon molecules of any length and molecular structure the company desires; hundreds of different hydrocarbon molecules can be produced by “programming” the DNA. The crude oil would then be refined in the usual way, producing gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, or any other petroleum-based product, just like the real stuff.

Testing continues, including plans for a pilot plant to be built next year to see how it works on a larger scale. Within 3 to 5 years, LS9 hopes to be manufacturing & selling not only the synthetic bio-crude, but also an improved biodiesel fuel.

What will be interesting is how this development will be received in the green community. My guess is they won’t like it much; while it sounds Earth-friendly, with crops being grown to feed bacteria (helping to offset the carbon output), a new source of oil leads to lower (or at least stabilized) fuel prices, which leads to continued use of internal combustion engines, which leads to stressed out tree huggers.

via a article



  1. “…which leads to stressed out tree huggers.”

    Not a very subtle slant. Kvetching on what “tree huggers” may think is one way to look at this, the other is net gains. If so-called “ordinary agricultural feedstocks” are used, what are the costs associated with the production/processing of those feedstocks. We’ve already seen the havoc wreaked with corn futures and subsequent agri-corp farm subsidies. That program is /not/ sustainable. It leads to the same fertilizer-intensive, top-soil-eroding crap that’s gotten our farming communities into such deep trouble.

    “Ordinary agricultural feedstocks” would be y.a. net loss.

    I’m not saying that this company has the wrong idea, just that net gains need to be considered.

  2. Actually, the feedstocks mentioned in the article is switchgrass, which wouldn’t likely cause a similar disruption as with ethanol production. I’m guessing the bacteria could use just about any organic material, even cornstalks & other leftovers from agricultural processes. Maybe even yard waste, garbage, etc…

    Sorry about the tree hugger reference; I don’t consider myself to be one, but that doesn’t stop me from caring about how much stuff I use day to day, and what kind of an impact that usage has on my surroundings.

  3. Awesome, I am going to buy a gas guzzling SUV ASAP. Once we burn up all of the oil from the middle east countries will be begging the US to sell them our bio-oil. The tables are turning. Let’s start drawing up plans for indoor ski slopes and huge man made islands.

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