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SCI/TECH: Designer Organisms for Alternative Fuel Production?

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posted on Nov, 24 2005 @ 02:49 PM
The man who mapped the human genome has set his sights on creating new organisms that could produce alternative fuel. J. Craig Venter has started a new company, Synthetic Genomics, that will try to create organisms that will produce hydrogen, ethanol, heating oil, and gobble up greenhouse gasses. There are risks and ethical considerations in such research, but researchers are certain that risks can be contained and ethical issues can be averted. Already, GreenFuel Technologies of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is creating biodiesel with from algae.
J. Craig Venter, who gained worldwide fame in 2000 when he mapped the human genetic code, is behind a new start-up called Synthetic Genomics, which plans to create new types of organisms that, ideally, would produce hydrogen, secrete nonpolluting heating oil or be able to break down greenhouse gases.

The initial focus will be on creating "biofactories" for hydrogen and ethanol, two fuels seen as playing an increasing role in powering cars in the future. Hydrogen also holds promise for heating homes and putting juice into electronic devices.

The raw genetic material for these synthetic micro-organisms will come from a diverse set of genes from a variety of species, according to the company. While many of the genes will come from some of the aquatic micro-organisms that Venter and his colleagues discovered during extensive ocean voyages in the last two years, the company will also experiment with genes from large mammals such as dogs.

"Rapid advances in high throughput DNA sequencing and synthesis, as well as high performance computing and bioinformatics, now enable us to synthesize novel photosynthetic and metabolic pathways," Venter said in a statement earlier this year. "We are in an era of rapid advances in science and are beginning the transition from being able to not only read genetic code, but are now moving to the early stages of being able to write code."

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

I think this is exciting stuff. It would be a great boon to mankind if fuel necessary for our lifestyle could become cost-effective and renewable. The prospect that the environmental effects of fuel combustion could be offset by microbes would be like having your cake and eating it, too, which, after all, is what we all want. Scientists have calculated the amount of methane emitted by cows and its effect on the environment. In reality, we are all fuel producers and the ability to harness such resources would be a marvelous thing, indeed.

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posted on Nov, 24 2005 @ 03:44 PM
Another good find Grady.

I am of two minds about this stuff. If these synthetic proteins and bacteria ever get loose, like other things have, then yipes. On the other hand - they could eat our waste - and heat our homes too.

I am reassured that Ventnor's involved. If anyone understands the risks, I suspect he does...

posted on Nov, 25 2005 @ 01:28 AM
i'm all for a synthetic renewable resource, and it could definitely have an immense positive effect on the entire planet, but if they can arrange genomes to the point that they can actually create customized resources, i have to ask......what kind of disastrous weapons could be "custom crafted". where theres day, theres night, for every yin theres a yang. eventually this knowledge WILL fall into the hands of someone without the lofty ideals of this scientist, and it's human nature to use any technology to make the "ultra weapon", something that cannot be protected against by someone who has exclusive access to it. i just hope the positive effects are within my life, and by some miracle the inevitable weaponization of this is long after my death. i don't wanna see it.


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