Green Car Congress is reporting on progress toward genetically engineered bacteria that can produce ethanol directly from cellulose. Kate is warning about "head explosions" in response to this news.
Sorry, Kate. No head explosions here. This is not a breakthrough solution to our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels. And since it isn't a breakthrough, it doesn't pose any dilemma for opponents of genetic engineering.
The cold hard truth: you still have to grow the cellulose.
There is a simple reason that fossil fuels are so valuable, and so fundamental to the explosive prosperity of society since the Industrial Revolution. Fossil fuels are a concentrated form of photosynthetically stored solar energy, concentrated from plant biomass produced over long stretches of time. By using up the bulk of the world's store of fossil fuels, industrialized society is using up millions of years' worth of biomass production in a span of only a few hundred years. There is no way to duplicate that kind of supply from annual biomass production, unless we acquire a few more planets and concentrate resources across space instead of time.
Eleutheros recently put the ethanol issue in perspective.
You want a renewable fuel for sustainable transportation? Grow something you can eat, and walk.
A poem for today
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