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November 24, 2007

"green" fuel from designer bacteria

An interview with Craig Venter. The left will of course squeal about "Franken-fuel" built by legions of "slave" bugs.

...What is this new field of synthetic biology that you're working on now?

We're designing genomes to do what we want. I've described these as the design components of the future. If you liken that to the electronics industry in the 1950s, there were a handful of components -- resistors, transistors, capacitors. We will have tens of millions of design components for biology.

What sort of things do you imagine could be built?

We're trying to design cells that produce unique renewable fuels. We have one of those in extensive testing now that could be one of the first green jet fuels. Hopefully there'll be hundreds of these. With this breadth of biology, we have the capability of probably making any chemical out there. It's not hard even to imagine gasoline or octane that we put into our tanks. Bacteria can make that.

Would this be produced on farms?

I'm thinking a country of this size could have 100,000 to 1 million mini-refineries. Just bacterial vats, hopefully not as big as barn silos. The notion I have is: You get rid of the distribution system and produce it where you need it.

So you're hopeful designer bacteria can help fight global warming?

I'm counting on it. What other choices are there? We're going to go back and live in caves and not drive cars? We either find a technological fix or we go out of existence. If you don't like bacteria, you're on the wrong planet. This is the planet of the bacteria.


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posted by Purp at 08:36 AM

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