Bacteria that eat waste and poop petroleum

June 19, 2008 at 10:06 pm

What in the world? We’re talking about

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.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.

The story in The Times of London is a great read and may challenge some of your assumptions — Is oil really a non-renewable fossil fuel, or is formed by abiogenic processes? Also, the story notes plenty of hurdles that need to be cleared before you can pour bug excrement into your gas tank, especially the problem of large-scale production:

However, to substitute America’s weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.

The best byproduct of high fuel prices has been the opportunity to discuss issues like New Urbanism, sprawl and our nation’s exclusively automotive transportation network. But what if oil supplies suddenly blossom? If peak oil is a myth, or if it can be averted, will our hopes for renewed cities be in vain?

I hope not. Although it seems some New Urbanists are almost happy that oil prices have gone through the roof, we should not place all of our bets on that happening. Our arguments in favor of true, good cities should be able to exist even with dollar-a-gallon gas.

– Hat Tip: Douglas Wilson

Entry filed under: Culture, Jon Swerens, Transportation, Urbanism. Tags: , , , , .

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