Splendid news from Silicon Valley: a flotilla of companies, including one called LS9, are now starting to genetically engineer bacteria that poop petrol and eat any old rubbish:
Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.
For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.
The key facts are that this is a carbon-neutral method of producing conventional crude oil (and all the good stuff you can get out of crude oil), that doesn’t cause food inflation, consumes waste biomass, and doesn’t require us to spend $billions upgrading our current transport infrastructure to compatibility with hydrogen fuel cells.
The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. 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.
However, to substitute America’s weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.
This is it: with oil prices continuing to break records and global warming coming around the corner this is the direction we need to go in (unless there’s some other huge problem with it, aside from the Chicago-sized thing?).