Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide 'renewable petroleum'
“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.
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 next to us. 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”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.
This looks very cool. It’s carbon friendly and doesn’t use a food source like corn to make gas. It also let’s us keep most of the same fuel infrastructure (gas stations) that we use today.
I wish the government would drop a billion or two into this to get it going in mass, instead of spending it in a few days over in Iraq.
I also hope some oil company doesn’t buy the patent and sit on it, like Chevron did with large NiCad batteries.
Time will tell…