Looking Beyond Ethanol

Researchers are trying to domesticate Mother Nature and use “super bugs” like E. coli microbes for fuel.

"Nature is stubborn. It doesn’t like to be tampered with,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said in an Oct. 14 article. “Train it to give up an ancient habit, and soon it reverts to its old ways. For instance, how do you make prairie grass more amenable to being turned into sugar? How do you mutate E. coli microbes so that they gleefully turn that sugar into fuel? How, in short, do you liquefy shredded plants into jet fuel to power a flight to Paris? Dozens of private firms and government-funded labs are now trying to answer those questions.”

"This year’s oil-price shock and fears over global warming have reinvigorated the quest for the ultimate liquid fuel — one that is clean, cheap, easy to make, and doesn’t compete with food stocks,” the article continued. “Nature took millions of years to turn dead microorganisms into oil and gas. Scientists now want to trick nature into reducing that to a day or so.

Jay Keasling, a noted microbiologist who directs the new government-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute in the San Francisco Bay area, describes the challenge to WSJ succinctly: “We need to find a way to domesticate nature so we can create energy from waste.”

WSJ noted that “success will require scientific breakthroughs at every step, from designing the perfect feedstocks to hitting on the ideal microbe for turning that roughage into fuel. The federal government wants biofuel production to replace a quarter of all gasoline consumed in the U.S. by 2025. The nation’s corn-based ethanol factories are now churning out around 6.5 billion gallons a year — just over 2 percent of the country’s gasoline intake.

“But ethanol’s drawbacks are well known — not least of which that it takes huge amounts of energy to produce,” the WSJ article continued. “Keasling’s lab is shooting for something far superior: a newfangled hydrocarbon made from biomass. The advantages of a pure biofuel are numerous. The government estimates that the U.S. could harvest 1.3 million tons of biomass feedstocks a year, ranging from special grasses to wood chips. Unlike ethanol, the fuel would also be a direct alternative to gasoline and sold through the same pumps. Making it happen, though, requires some serious doctoring."

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Management Stories
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
West Central Sac City growers
StewardshipIowa Lawsuit Challenges Ag’s Water Quality Efforts
May 3, 2015
Nutrient problems in west-central Iowa’s water supply made national headlines in March when the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) filed Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
Crop InputsDow AgroSciences: Always About Agriculture
May 2, 2015
When you consider their respective backgrounds, it’s little wonder why Dow AgroSciences and new President/CEO Tim Hassinger ended up together. Read More
Nozzle spray close-up
AdjuvantsSpray Drift Enters More Complex Era
May 1, 2015
Off-target movement of crop protection products has been a problem for decades. The issue got more contentious when glyphosate-tolerant crops Read More
Crop InputsTop 10 Twitter Pics For #Plant15
April 30, 2015
Growers and ag retailers are working feverishly to plant this year’s crop. Fortunately, many of them still have time to Read More
ManagementIowa Retailer Sticks Up For Agriculture and New Spray D…
April 30, 2015
Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about how one Iowa ag retailer is working to defend agricultural practices and an Read More
Dow AgroSciences Logo wall
Seed/BiotechNew Soybean Trait Agreement To Use Dow AgroSciencesR…
April 30, 2015
Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Co., Arcadia Biosciences, Inc. and Bioceres, S.A. have formed an agreement Read More
Confluence of St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers in Minnesota
StewardshipAgricultural Runoff Among Causes Of Water Quality Issue…
April 30, 2015
A new report released April 29 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency provides additional evidence that agricultural and urban runoff Read More
EquipmentTop 30 IRON WORKS Cartoons Of All Time
April 29, 2015
When CropLife IRON first started publishing more than a decade ago, long-time Publisher Al Strohmaier decided to start a cartoon Read More
StewardshipCPS-Hillsboro Becomes First ResponsibleAg Certified Fac…
April 29, 2015
Unlike a race where the first finisher takes home a medal or blue ribbon, safety and regulatory compliance doesn’t often Read More
HerbicidesWeed Scientists Offer New Definition For ‘Superwe…
April 28, 2015
The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has joined with six sister organizations to recommend a new definition for superweed Read More
Crop InputsValent Announces “Relentless As You’ Contes…
April 28, 2015
Valent U.S.A. Corporation today announced the winners of its national “Relentless As You” contest, which recognized the relentless spirit of Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta’s Acuron Secures EPA Federal Approval
April 28, 2015
Growers looking to control difficult weeds like waterhemp, giant ragweed and Palmer amaranth will have access to Acuron corn herbicide Read More
FertilizerSimplot’s Gal-XeONE Technology Moves West
April 27, 2015
The J.R. Simplot Co. remains committed to creating customer value through technology. In 2013, Simplot purchased the Gal-XeONE controlled release Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Need To Defend Production Agriculture
April 27, 2015
Last week, I spent the better part of my time on the road visiting with ag retailers and market suppliers Read More
FertilizerStarter Fertilizers Show Value In Stressful Spring Cond…
April 27, 2015
From wet, cold conditions in the eastern Corn Belt to excessively dry, cool soils in the Plains states, spring field Read More
StewardshipTFI Announces Renewed Financial Commitment To Fertilize…
April 24, 2015
Today, The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) President Chris Jahn announced that TFI and over 100 partners will more than double existing Read More
Industry NewsMACA Names New Ambassador Coordinator
April 23, 2015
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has named Michelle Kilper as its new Ambassador Coordinator. Michelle is a graduate of Read More
ManagementAg Retailer’s Role In Local Policy Making; Raising The …
April 23, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review their recent travels, precision ag efforts in Washington, DC, and the role of Read More