Monday, March 3, 2008

Craig Venter and the fourth generation of designer fuels

From BusinessWeek:

Just had a brief chat with genetic scientist, Craig Venter, after his presentation at this morning’s TED session, entitled What Is Life? He laid down a challenge: “I don’t want to be known as the Gene King any more!” So we’ll be chatting more post-conference to delve deeper into his latest proposition, the development of synthetic cells — and their impact on developing the fourth generation of designer fuels.

It’ll be tough to get people thinking beyond Venter in terms of genetics. After all, he’s best known as the man who led the team that sequenced the human genome, back in 1995, and he published a complete diploid genome — the newest stage in human genome sequencing, in September 2007. He’s a true pioneer in genomic research.

But Venter has a point, and now is the time to talk about his work and research in terms practicalities. As he put it, earlier experiments such as corn to ethanol or sugar to higher value fuels such as octane or butanol simply haven’t worked.

“The only way we think biology can have major impact — without increasing the cost of food or limiting its availability — is to start with carbon dioxide as a feedstock,” he said in his talk. Natural photosynthesis, in other words, simply doesn’t cut it....

From Agence France-Presse:

Famed geneticist creating life form that turns CO2 to fuel

A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said Thursday he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially world-changing "fourth-generation fuel" project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California.

"We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy," Venter told an audience that included global warming fighter Al Gore and Google co-founder Larry Page.

"We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock.">>>MORE