Future of biofuels: Are alternative, sustainable, GMO bacteria-based fuels a pipe dream?

lab
A worker holds up a container of carbon-based fuel at the lab of now-defunct Joule Unlimited

[Joule Unlimited] was designing a system that would produce diesel fuel or gasoline using nothing more than the sun, carbon dioxide, water, and a genetically modified bacterium. It would be available for about $1.20 a gallon — without government subsidies…Joule’s tagline said that it was “solving the energy crisis with affordable, renewable clean fuel,” and the company managed to attract $200 million in financing from investors, including Cambridge-based Flagship Pioneering and the German carmaker Audi, which was eager to test Joule’s sustainable fuel.

Last month, though, the company auctioned off its New Mexico facility.

John Beneman, an expert on algae-based biofuels, notes that Joule isn’t an anomaly. “There are other companies out there that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and come up with the same results — either they are walking dead, or ghosts, or resting in peace,” says Beneman, who is also chief executive of the consulting firm MicroBio Engineering in California.

Does Beneman believe it’s just impossible to use a genetically engineered organism to make an affordable, more sustainable kind of fuel, rather than extracting it from the earth? “I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that it requires long-term work,” he says.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: How a biofuel dream turned into a nightmare

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