Time was, genetic engineers were putting jellyfish genes in everything to see what crazy animals they could get to glow in the dark. Now, however, they’re doing quite a bit more. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has a few articles on various uses for genetically modified plants. Two papers discuss using trees to remove harmful chemicals from the atmosphere, the third identifies a way to modify the Chlamy (a green alga) to produce hydrogen. It seems that algae may be the future of biofuels, after a report on using algae to produce a type of biodiesel.
(image via IRRI Images)
In addition to worries about driving up food prices around the world, especially in developing nations, there comes a study from Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen that biofuel may be even worse for us than fossil fuels. The team calculates that biofuels can release 50-70% more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, as well as release roughly twice as much nitrous oxide (N2O) as previously thought.
I think the problem here is that everyone is looking for a way to maintain their current standard of living and not admit that this level of energy usage will have to decrease. The funny thing is, it’s not all that difficult to reduce the usage, if only just a little. I think it’s actually more difficult to get your car converted to biodiesel than biking/walking to nearby places and not leaving lights on. But that’s just me.
(via SciTechDaily) (image from neilsphotoalbum)
Update: Apologies, I misread the news report. I should’ve found the original paper first. It turns out that Dr. Crutzen found that N2O was marketdly increased, and if the environmental effects of N2O were converted into how much cooling CO2 would do, it comes out to be the afore-stated 50-70% increase. Which is a lot. Dr. Crutzen also stated he did not take into account the fossil fuel required to power the agricultural process (plowing, harvesting, etc), not did it take into account any beneficial co-products. He only focused on N2O production. It seems there is also some controversy about the efficacy of the calculations used. Please see the paper here(pdf).
Earth 2 Tech has a list of ways the military is using eco-technology. It includes solar power tents, aviation bio-fuel, micro fuel cells, hybrid drive technologies, and personal solar cells for recharging in the field.
There is a great deal of money in the military, and often research and innovation comes out of the military side that trickles down to civilians (night vision, Hummers, etc). It would be intriguing if green technologies are invented in the military industry have an effect on daily life. So far, however, most of these innovations look like they’re being taken from civilian industries and being tested in military arenas.
Now all we need is a eco-DARPA and we might see some very interesting results!