Meanwhile, back at the lab....
The article's headline:
Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol
Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide 'renewable petroleum'
Sound's great. Add this to a list of creative solutions that keep fighting their way to the forefront to deal with oil supply.
from the article:
“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”
He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil....
they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.
And it's green too!
The company's name is LS9 and is operating with $20 million in start up capital from private investors including Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Micro-Systems.
Granted, the idea is still not without its "bugs" to work out...no pun intended...but the idea could bear fruit in the near future:
“Our plan is to have a demonstration-scale plant operational by 2010 and, in parallel, we’ll be working on the design and construction of a commercial-scale facility to open in 2011,” says [senior director Greg] Pal, adding that if LS9 used Brazilian sugar cane as its feedstock, its fuel would probably cost about $50 a barrel.
Says Arnold Kling with some level of justified smugness:
The entrepreneurs are trying to solve our energy problems. What is government doing? Putting a tariff on Brazilian sugar cane, among other things.
---and doing a lot of inept and impotent talking and grand-standing I might add.
This all reminds of those Royal Bank of Scotland commericials. One involves hikers and one of them accidently steps in quicksand. The tour guide notices and then goes on and on about how he thinks they should form a steering committee and do a risk analysis or some other long winding deliberation. While he's going on and on talking to an entralled audience of hikers engrossed in the problem-solving process monologue, one lone hiker throws a rope to the sinking hiker and pulls him out. Another ad along the same lines involves a cable car high off the ground that suddenly stops. Same shtick. Meanwhile, amidst all the chatter, one of the passengers simply hits the reset button and the car starts moving.
The message is clear, less talk, more action. Sadly, I could not find links to the videos.
But I think they convey the image quite well about how are socio-economic challenges involving energy are being handled and will be solved. While politicians in the foreground talk and fill the air waves to a captive audience with empty chatter and stumping, innovators are quietly in the background looking for solutions by building on what we know today to push the limits of what we could know tomorrow. Funny, isn't that how it always works, anyway? ;)
No doubt some president or congressman will be their to cut a ribbon and try and draw the kudos back onto themselves when one of these creative ideas gets put into action and most will saldy remember the president during whose term it happened and the real heroes will be forgotten and made to be some greedy business man at some point when political dogma and machinations butt heads with these entrepreneurs over the business side of things.
Pardon my cycinism. I expect such nonsense...but I'll gladly deal with it as long as progress from the invisble entrepreneurs comes with it.