We all know that oil burned in vehicles is a major contributor to global climate change, but it is also an incredible fuel, holding a tremendous amount of potential energy in little space. But what if we could grow a fuel with the equivalent energy capacity? A breakthrough in biofuels utilizing DNA harvested from trees, special soil, and the E. coli bacteria claims to have developed a fuel chemically identical to petrol.
John Love of the University of Exeter took genes from the camphor tree, soil bacteria, and blue-green algae and spliced it with DNA from E. coli. He then fed this modified bacteria glucose,which produced hydrocarbons chemically and structurally similar to the fuel sold in gas pumps. This process could one day be scaled to use leftover straw or animal manure, allowing us to grow a fuel that will work in today’s automobiles.
If we could eliminate the costly and environmentally destructive practice of drilling for oil, that would go a long way towards reigning in global emissions and preserving natural habitats. Of course that doesn’t resolve the issue of auto emissions itself.
But if researchers were able to shift their resources towards producing more and more efficient internal combustion engines, maybe one day we could use a renewable gas without the guilt or glut of emissions. The real question comes down to price. If you had your choice between cheaper petrol or a more-expensive but cleaner biofuel, how much more would you be willing to pay for a clear conscience?
Source: New Scientist