All We Need to Make New Fuels is Fresh Air and Sunshine

OK, it takes more than fresh air and sunshine to make usable, sustainable bio-fuels … but thanks to the work of Massachusetts-based Joule Unlimited, it doesn’t take much more!

Joule has developed a genetically-modified organism (GMO, but it’s good GMO … not like, Monsanto GMO) that can be “directed” to secrete usable forms of ethanol and diesel wherever it finds CO2 and water, using energy from the sun as a catalyst.  What’s more, Joule’s representatives are saying these renewable fuels can be created virtually “on demand” in both large and small scale quantities, and at extraction costs competitive with the cheapest fossil fuels.

“We make some lofty claims, all of which we believe, all pf which we’ve validated, all of which we’ve shown to investors,” said Joule chief executive Bill Sims.  “If we’re half right, this revolutionizes the world’s largest industry (oil).”

Using a process that seems very similar to photosynthesis to produce fuels usable in today’s mass-produced vehicles is pretty exciting stuff – indeed, it’s the very basis we’ve built “Gas 2.0” around – but, of course, there are detractors.  Timothy Donohue, for example, is director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He says that Joule must demonstrate its technology on a broad scale, saying that “perhaps it can work, but the four letter word that’s the biggest stumbling block is whether it will work,” Donohue said. “There are really good ideas that fail during scale up.”

Sims is well aware of the nay-sayer’s views, dismissively stating that “there’s always skeptics for breakthrough technologies.”

In spite of detractors, Joule is thriving – having nearly doubled the number of its employees (to 70), scored 30 million dollars in “second round” private funding, and adding John Podesta (former White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton) to its board of directors.  To underscore its successes, Joule recently released a peer-reviewed paper that backs its claims.

More public proof of success or failure for Joule will come soon, as the company plans to break ground on a 10 acre “demonstration facility” later this year.  If it’s successful, Sims believes the company can be selling its fuel commercially by 2013 …

… which would be pretty cool.

SourceJoule Unlimited, via the Associated Press, via Yahoo!


Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.