Moira Gunn, the NPR technology correspondent, will start her visit at Purdue’s “Perspectives on Communication and Technology” graduate seminar later today. In addition to giving two lectures in our seminar she will give a public talk tomorrow, at 3 PM, titled “The Biotech Century: What we Can Do and What we Can’t”.
Also, I thought that the snippet below from a Yahoo! news article would preface her visit nicely. Some people think that we might.. brew our own fuel.
Bugs Could Be Key to Kicking Oil Addiction – Yahoo! News
SAN FRANCISCO – The key to kicking what
President Bush calls the nation’s oil addiction could very well lie in termite guts, canvas-eating jungle bugs and other microbes genetically engineered to spew enzymes that turn waste into fuel.
It may seem hard to believe that microscopic bugs usually viewed as destructive pests can be so productive. But scientists and several companies are working with the creatures to convert wood, corn stalks and other plant waste into sugars that are easily brewed into ethanol â€” essentially 199-proof moonshine that can be used to power automobiles.
Thanks to biotechnology breakthroughs, supporters of alternative energy sources say that after decades of unfulfilled promise and billions in government corn subsidies, energy companies may be able to produce ethanol easily and inexpensively.
“The process is like making grain alcohol, or brewing beer, but on a much bigger scale,” said Nathanael Greene, an analyst with the environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. “The technologies are out there to do this, but we need to convince the public this is real and not just a science project.”
Using microbes may even solve a growing dilemma over the current ethanol manufacturing process, which relies almost exclusively on corn kernels and yielded only 4 billion gallons of ethanol last year (compared to the 140 billion gallons of gasoline used in the U.S.). There’s growing concern throughout the Midwestern corn belt that the 95 U.S. ethanol plants are increasingly poaching corn meant for the dinner table or livestock feed.