Thursday, 2 June 2011

Geography Picture Of The Day (sort of) - Could ancient bacteria power the world?

The words oil and renewable are not something I think I have ever used in conjunction but this could all change in the near future.....

Oil is used relentlessly across the globe, despite the apparent detrimental environmental impacts, and for many years now the thought of renewable oil has been too idealistic for many to even dare to consider. However, this once idealistic idea, is now getting serious consideration from many scientists.

The above picture just looks like a few tanks filled with a rather vibrant green liquid but this is in fact the ancient bacteria that has got many scientists very excited. Cyanobacteria have already played a huge role in the history of the Earth as, around 2.4 billion years ago, they were the first microorganisms to start to oxygenate the Earth's atmosphere. Now, scientists hope that, after a bit of persuasion from a tad of genetic engineering, they could possiby help us out in the future by utilising our waste carbon dioxide (something that we seem to have an abudance of after the announcement made by the IEA which suggested that last years energy - related carbon emissions reached an all time high) and a little sunshine to secrete alkanes - the crucial ingredient of diesel. This would offer a very 'green' fuel, that could be considered to be solar-powered oil, as, primarily, the microbes could be fed with the carbon dioxide emmited form industry and, this form of biofuel, would not require vast expanses of fertile farm land to be used to grow crops like sugar cane as, due to the need for sunshine, the most commercially viable location for these photobioreactors would be in deserts.

This third generation of biofuels is, with good reason, attracting millions of pounds of investment - especially in America. This latest technology is far from being capable of producing a commericailly viable fuel but, this third generation biofuel is only in its infancy and so there is still hope for the production of a renewable oil and so no longer is the idea of making oil from sunshine one only found in the dreams of many energy producers.

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