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Saturday, April 05, 2008

American Ingenuity on Oil’s Replacement

I’ve said it before on many posts on this site. The end of the strangle hold on America’s energy needs is nearing the end of the beginning. All of those back yard inventors of a better mouse trap when it comes to our fuel needs are coming out of the woodwork and the ones serious enough to believe in it will be successful.

One of the things I find interesting is that many of these backyard chemist, biologist, and guys that know how to work a mean wrench have on thing in common, not one of them thinks they will replace the Exxon’s of this world but they sure as hell will put a dent in their billion dollar profits year by year. And as these combined technologies all grow over time then the likes of Exxon will be the mega giant corporations that dared to think it was irreplaceable. Read more on this great article from Popular Science and Amanda Schaffer in the latest issue…

I’m watching this image on a computer screen at Amyris Biotechnologies in Emeryville, California, where one of the founders, biologist Jack Newman, is giving me a tour. The genetically manipulated E. coli before me are highly crafted units of industrial production, which Amyris is using to turn sugar into novel versions of gasoline, jet fuel and diesel—in other words, the fuels on which the world already runs. Amyris is one of a handful of young biofuel companies putting a brilliant and weird twist on the future of green. It’s betting that, with the help of bacteria, the long-term answer to our gasoline woes will actually be . . . gasoline.

Because as it stands, the main alternative to petroleum, ethanol (a type of alcohol), is fraught with problems. It can’t be pumped through current infrastructure because it tends to corrode pipelines. And according to University of Minnesota economist Jason Hill, even if all the corn grown in the U.S. were converted to ethanol, it would replace only some 12 percent of the 146 billion gallons of gasoline we use every year. Cellulosic ethanol—fuel produced from the cellulosic matter contained in plant stalks and stems rather than from seeds—would solve that problem, but the technology to produce it on a large scale is still a way off. Plus, ethanol simply isn’t as energy dense as petroleum-based fuels.
- Popular Science

One of the things I find very warming to the spirit is that this research isn’t coming from the United States Government or sponsored by XYZ oil company. It’s coming from American’s with an attitude, American’s with a spirit and sense of what is right and what is wrong. It’s coming from a displaced sense of the American way of life. For the last eight years we as a people have been jerked around by circumstances beyond our control and if you know anything about Americans, we hate being told that the price of our greatest energy resource is beyond our control. That’s a tough pill to swallow and we American’s tend to hate having anything shoved down our throats. Even when it comes from within our own nation with the people we allow a free market to dictate prices.

This is an Energy Revolution and it is starting in garages, chemistry labs, brain storming sessions, and with individuals sick and tired of having the money they earned spent on fuels to run our vehicles or buying a gallon of milk for their families. That is an argument that will never be won when it comes to the hundreds of thousands of brilliant minds working today all across America to pretty much chuck the Middle East and all OPEC nations the bird.

This countries energy needs will pretty much be self reliant in twenty to thirty years. It’s not going to be easy and it isn’t something that can happen overnight or from any one technology. It will happen with one advancement at a time. Think of it as a slow strangling end to imported oil much like the horse and buggy day.

One last quote from the same Popular Science piece…

Before I leave, though, he shows me a painting he keeps in his office. It’s of a little boy leaping from one cliff to another across a chasm. The boy’s arms are stretched out. His head juts forward. “He isn’t even looking at the edge. He’s looking beyond the edge,” Reiling says. “He’s 100 percent committed to that jump. That’s what you’ve got to do when you’re going after something.”

You have my best wishes on success Amyris!


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