So, um, how about producing diesel fuel from E. coli bacteria?

A strain of bacteria has been created that can produce fuel…Researchers genetically modified E. coli bacteria to convert sugar into an oil that is almost identical to conventional diesel.

If the process could be scaled up, this synthetic fuel could be a viable alternative to the fossil fuel, the team said…

Professor John Love, a synthetic biologist from the University of Exeter, said: “Rather than making a replacement fuel like some biofuels, we have made a substitute fossil fuel.

“The idea is that car manufacturers, consumers and fuel retailers wouldn’t even notice the difference – it would just become another part of the fuel production chain.”

…Most forms of biodiesel and bioethanol that are currently used are not fully compatible with modern engines. Fractions of the substances (between 5-10%) need to be blended with petroleum before they can be used in most engines…However, the fuel produced by the modified E. coli bacteria is different.

Prof Love explained: “What we’ve done is produced fuels that are exactly the chain length required for the modern engine and exactly the composition that is required.

“They are bio-fossil-fuels if you like.”

Using synthetic biology, the team altered the bacteria’s cell mechanisms so that…sugar was converted to synthetic fuel molecules…By altering the bacteria’s genes, they were able to transform the bugs into fuel-producing factories. However, the E. coli did not make much of the alkane fuel.

Professor Love said it would take about 100 litres of bacteria to produce a single teaspoon of the fuel.

“Our challenge is to increase the yield before we can go into any form of industrial production,” he said…”We’ve got a timeframe of about three to five years to do that and see if it is worth going ahead with it…”

It’s not a magic bullet – but it is another tool in the toolbox.”

Modern-day politicians love to believe in magic bullets. The Walt Disney theory of history.

But, as long as we’re running our motor vehicles with internal combustion engines it’s worth contriving fuel sources which are regenerative, reproducible without depending on extractive industries. The ultimate goal for me would be powering damned near everything by electricity – and coming up with more methods of producing that electricity without befouling our atmosphere and our lives.

Long term, that’s really not a difficult task. The politics are tougher than the science and economics.

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