John Laumer at Treehugger has posted a very thorough overview of a new process that creates ethanol from renewable agricultural and forest wastes through the use of a genetically-engineered strain of E.Coli:
Lonnie Ingram, a professor of microbiology with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has genetically engineered a stratin of E.Coli that produces fuel ethanol from non-edible sugar sources at an estimated cost of $1.30 gallon.
The bioconversion technology, selected by the U.S. Department of Commerce to become Landmark Patent No. 5,000,000, is being commercialized with assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). BC International Corp., based in Dedham, Mass., holds exclusive rights to use and license the UF-engineered bacteria.
In 2005, more than 4.5 billion gallons of fuel ethanol will be manufactured from corn starch and sugars. He said his technology will further expand ethanol production by converting celluloic waste into fuel ethanol, more than doubling current ethanol production.
John also lays out a number of positive and negative developments that could occur as a result of this new technology. I also have to wonder about the wisdom of buying into genetic engineering and the patenting of life forms involved here. On a more personal note, I’m glad to see that my old home region of SW Louisiana stands to benefit economically, but, again, I wonder at what costs… We benefitted for a long time from the petrochemical industry, hardly a bastion of responsible environmental stewardship.