Enivronmentalists worst nightmare? GMO’d ‘frankenbugs’ could make fuel directly from CO2

From the University of Georgia:

UGA discovery may allow scientists to make fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere

Pyrococcus-1[1]

Pyrococcus furiosus Image: MIT click for more info

Athens, Ga. – Excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere created by the widespread burning of fossil fuels is the major driving force of global climate change, and researchers the world over are looking for new ways to generate power that leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

Now, researchers at the University of Georgia have found a way to transform the carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere into useful industrial products. Their discovery may soon lead to the creation of biofuels made directly from the carbon dioxide in the air that is responsible for trapping the sun’s rays and raising global temperatures.

“Basically, what we have done is create a microorganism that does with carbon dioxide exactly what plants do-absorb it and generate something useful,” said Michael Adams, member of UGA’s Bioenergy Systems Research Institute, Georgia Power professor of biotechnology and Distinguished Research Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

During the process of photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to transform water and carbon dioxide into sugars that the plants use for energy, much like humans burn calories from food.

These sugars can be fermented into fuels like ethanol, but it has proven extraordinarily difficult to efficiently extract the sugars, which are locked away inside the plant’s complex cell walls.

“What this discovery means is that we can remove plants as the middleman,” said Adams, who is co-author of the study detailing their results published March 25 in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. “We can take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and turn it into useful products like fuels and chemicals without having to go through the inefficient process of growing plants and extracting sugars from biomass.”

The process is made possible by a unique microorganism called Pyrococcus furiosus, or “rushing fireball,” which thrives by feeding on carbohydrates in the super-heated ocean waters near geothermal vents. By manipulating the organism’s genetic material, Adams and his colleagues created a kind of P. furiosus that is capable of feeding at much lower temperatures on carbon dioxide.

The research team then used hydrogen gas to create a chemical reaction in the microorganism that incorporates carbon dioxide into 3-hydroxypropionic acid, a common industrial chemical used to make acrylics and many other products.

With other genetic manipulations of this new strain of P. furiosus, Adams and his colleagues could create a version that generates a host of other useful industrial products, including fuel, from carbon dioxide.

When the fuel created through the P. furiosus process is burned, it releases the same amount of carbon dioxide used to create it, effectively making it carbon neutral, and a much cleaner alternative to gasoline, coal and oil.

“This is an important first step that has great promise as an efficient and cost-effective method of producing fuels,” Adams said. “In the future we will refine the process and begin testing it on larger scales.”

The research was supported by the Department of Energy as part of the Electrofuels Program of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy under Grant DE-AR0000081.

UGA Bioenergy Systems Research Institute
The Bioenergy Systems Research Institute at the University of Georgia supports alternative energy, fuel and materials production through the conversion of biomass. The institute encourages and facilitates research projects in bioenergy that pool UGA’s strengths in forestry, environmental science and engineering with carbohydrate science, genetics and microbiology. The institute also supports education and training of scientists as well as outreach projects designed to involve public and private stakeholders in the development of next-generation bioenergy technologies. For more information about the institute, see bioenergy.ovpr.uga.edu.

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130 thoughts on “Enivronmentalists worst nightmare? GMO’d ‘frankenbugs’ could make fuel directly from CO2

  1. Boy, I can see this organism exploding into action, reducing the CO2 to a level where all plants die followed shortly by all animals. The ultimate Green fantasy!

  2. “Excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere created by the widespread burning of fossil fuels is the major driving force of global climate change”
    Really?

  3. This is not going anywhere, we know that already. The efficiency of bacteria is about 3% only. Now look at the efficiency of solar panels, etc – and those are no good to solve our issues with an efficiency of ~17-20% (?). Interesting, but it’s not going to happen.

    You can watch Seth Lloyd on Quantum Life on Youtube, where he explains the workings and efficiency of bacteria turning sunlight into energy through photosysthesis.

  4. So let me get this straight…people have discovered how to create an artificial competitor to photosynthetic plants? One that will automatically compete with trees and our primary food crops for the CO2 in the atmosphere?

    Are they planning to make it self-replicating, too? Good lord, don’t any of these people read science fiction?

  5. If they need Hydrogen as a reactant after the creation of “…other genetic manipulations of this new strain…”, it is unlikely they will be able to get more energy out of the process than they put in to create this “fuel”.

    More energy will be lost creating that Hydrogen than could ever be gained in the process. If they skip the Sun as an energy input, the energy has to come from somewhere.

    The energy stored in Fossil Fuels is stored Solar energy.

    This may be useful technology, but it needs to be applied to an organism which uses photosynthesis and sunlight in order to be useful in creating/storing fuel as an energy source.

  6. Wow! So much wrong, so little time. Why don’t we start with this?

    “Their discovery may soon lead to the creation of biofuels made directly from the carbon dioxide in the air that is responsible for trapping the sun’s rays and raising global temperatures.”

    The stupid it burns.
    1. Guys, Co2 is about 380 parts per million. Um ya’ll planning on burning a barrel of oil to make a thimble-full?
    2. As far as I can tell, the CO2 impact on global temperatures cannot be detected.
    3. Atmospheric CO2 is needed for all life on the planet, why don’t we slow down and consider what might happen if the research turns out to be really successful. This sounds like a bad movie. Mankind creates a superbug that eats all of the CO2. All plant life on the planet succumbs within a year, and the planet dies. Environmentalists are thrilled!

  7. Well, Greenpeace has as two of their goals baning of all nuclear technologies (they don’t say whether they will make an exception for medicine so I guess not); and banning of all GM technologies. They will drum up their troops and tell them that this is a choice between turning the planet into Venus through CO2, and turning the planet into a lifeless desert through that CO2 bug.

    Both will be non problems; CO2 for its inefficacy in warming the planet, that GM bacteria because it will be eaten by other organisms when outside its protected area. It produces SUGAR…

    They are probably already filing FOIA requests to find out the names and addresses of the researchers and their families, as extremists in the US happen to do these days.

  8. Matt says: March 27, 2013 at 12:12 am

    This is not going anywhere, we know that already. The efficiency of bacteria is about 3% only. Now look at the efficiency of solar panels, etc – and those are no good to solve our issues with an efficiency of ~17-20% (?). Interesting, but it’s not going to happen.

    Hi Matt..

    Is it possible a bacteria may be cheaper than a solar panel? This may reflect upon the relative economics.

  9. DN says: March 27, 2013 at 12:12 am

    So let me get this straight…people have discovered how to create an artificial competitor to photosynthetic plants? One that will automatically compete with trees and our primary food crops for the CO2 in the atmosphere?

    Are they planning to make it self-replicating, too? Good lord, don’t any of these people read science fiction?

    You make a good point … that is a very scary thought….. !!!!

    But maybe this will have the positive effect of making nuclear power seem like a very benign and desirable alternative?

  10. Robert M says:
    March 27, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Wow! So much wrong, so little time. Why don’t we start with this?

    “Their discovery may soon lead to the creation of biofuels made directly from the carbon dioxide in the air that is responsible for trapping the sun’s rays and raising global temperatures.”

    The stupid it burns.
    1. Guys, Co2 is about 380 parts per million. Um ya’ll planning on burning a barrel of oil to make a thimble-full?
    2. As far as I can tell, the CO2 impact on global temperatures cannot be detected.
    3. Atmospheric CO2 is needed for all life on the planet, why don’t we slow down and consider what might happen if the research turns out to be really successful. This sounds like a bad movie. Mankind creates a superbug that eats all of the CO2. All plant life on the planet succumbs within a year, and the planet dies. Environmentalists are thrilled!

    *

    Nice. I agree with you. Just one small change to no. 3:

    …All plant life succumbs within a year, and the planet dies. Environmentalists are devastated. With their dying breath, they rasp out a final lament: “We were too late… CO2 has done it.”

    The fu@%ing tw@ts wouldn’t have a clue – right to the end!

  11. As a cheap alternative to making bulk chemical precursors, using GM plants and microbes seems reasonable.
    If it’s not economic then no-one will do it but to assume that it won’t ever pay its way is very luddite.
    Sure, the science journalist doesn’t know any science but the researchers might.
    Technology need not be scary and evil. I took the headline to be a joke on Greenpeace not an editorial to be taken seriously.

  12. Sorry, can’t get past “…global climate change….” and “…carbon dioxide in the air that is responsible for trapping the sun’s rays and raising global temperatures.”

    I suppose they are fishing for a fat tax-payer funded grant.

  13. if only the CAGW funding would dry up! our soon-to-be-ousted australian govt is having a final fling at keeping the game alive, but no-one’s listening:

    27 March: Age: Peter Hannam: Carbon tax ‘crucial’ to Australia’s global standing: Combet
    An Abbott government would risk Australia’s international reputation and undermine its economic interests if it scrapped the carbon tax, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told a joint climate forum with China.
    Mr Combet told the forum in Sydney, which included Chinese National Development and Reform Commission vice-president Xie Zhenhua, that by scrapping the tax it would sever Australia’s links with global moves to put a price on emissions…
    Mr Combet’s comments came as modelling by research group RepuTex found abolishing the carbon tax would effectively halt investment in the renewable energy sector overnight without other changes to support the industry.
    Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt rejected the research as out-of-line with industry assessments. He said the Coalition supported the 20 per cent renewable energy target.
    “In particular, the finding contradicts claims by others in the industry that Australia is on to track easily achieve and potentially exceed the 20 per cent figure. As the industry makes clear, the RET drives renewable energy not the carbon tax,” he said…
    ‘‘To pretend that Australia lives in a vacuum, and that we can repeal the most cost-effective way of reducing emissions in our economy, is a complete fantasy,’’ he said.
    Mr Hunt dismissed the claim that Australia’s reputation would suffer if it dumped the carbon price.
    “The US, Canada, Japan have all walked away from (emissions trading) schemes,” he said. “Unfortunately, the government is desperate to pretend that other countries are imposing such massive increases in electricity prices on their citizens.”

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/carbon-tax-crucial-to-australias-global-standing-combet-20130327-2gu3c.html

  14. I don’t understand what energy source this organism requires. Is it the Hydrogen mentioned in the write up? And if so, wouldn’t the successful creation of such a biofuel be in violation of the first law of thermodynamics?
    In what way is this organism superior to a green plant ?

  15. I am always sceptic about such stories (like about AGW :-))
    This may work in the lab, but not on industrial scale.

  16. “Peer reviewer #1: “Okay, this paper is really thin. But if we put some “Global Warming” into it somewhere, it will fly like an eagle!”

    Peer reviewer #2: “Yup!”

  17. @Jeez

    Already available, and natural too. Called the “Diesel Tree” or “Kerosene Tree”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copaifera_langsdorffii

    It produces a large amount of terpene hydrocarbons in its wood and leaves. One tree can produce 30 to 53 liters of hydrocarbons per year, en masse producing 10,000 – 12,000 litres/hectare/year which is incredibly high. The oil is collected by tree tapping. The main compound in the oil is copaiba, an oleoresin which is useful in the production of oil products such as lacquers and can be used as biodiesel. The tree is also the main source of copaene, another terpene.

    So 10k litres / hectare / year of ‘biodiesel’… About $10,000 of liquid fuel. Call it $4,000 / acre. Plus, eventually, the wood.

  18. I thought this had already been done, tried and tested on an industrial scale, they call the fuel woodchip

  19. DN says:
    March 27, 2013 at 12:12 am
    So let me get this straight…people have discovered how to create an artificial competitor to photosynthetic plants?

    That was the first thing that struck me. Less Co2=reduced carbon cycle=less Co2=reduced carbon cycle=less Co2. . . . .

    Or did I miss something obvious?

  20. Genetically modified bacteria to compete for food with the plants that feed us. Well, well. Maybe I am an idiot, but that does not seem like such a clever idea on the face of it. Kinda make me want to support the wind farms.

  21. Using microorganisms to make useful chemical products is not new, erythromycin by fermentation, for example. This doesn’t seem like a big stretch although they are not making alkanes from this modification. A source of hydrogen does seem to somewhat limit its utility.

  22. E.M.Smith says: March 27, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Already available, and natural too. Called the “Diesel Tree” or “Kerosene Tree”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copaifera_langsdorffii

    It produces a large amount of terpene hydrocarbons in its wood and leaves. One tree can produce 30 to 53 liters of hydrocarbons per year, en masse producing 10,000 – 12,000 litres/hectare/year which is incredibly high.

    Those are massive yields .. I think palm oil is about 3.6 tonnes (3,600 litres approx) per Ha per years.

  23. “The research team then used hydrogen gas to create a chemical reaction in the microorganism …”

    As always the question is where does the energy come from to make the “fuel”? There a plenty of was to make something combustible from CO2 but they all require energy input. It’s basic law of physics, no free lunch.

    So unless this microbe is photosynthesising (which it won’t be deep in a volanic ocean vent) this process requires energy input and will NOT provide an energy source.

    This kind of thing may be useful once we’ve exhausted feedstock for making plastics etc but it will not be an energy source.

    This press realease is just more CO2 based spin for anything anyone does.

  24. E.M.Smith says: March 27, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Already available, and natural too. Called the “Diesel Tree” or “Kerosene Tree”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copaifera_langsdorffii

    It produces a large amount of terpene hydrocarbons in its wood and leaves. One tree can produce 30 to 53 liters of hydrocarbons per year, en masse producing 10,000 – 12,000 litres/hectare/year which is incredibly high.

    Ah … here’s the rub … 15 to 20 years to first harvest (vs a maximum of 7 years to first harvest for oil palm, and some varieties are now down to 4 years) … although they will have palms well beaten on longevity…..

    “If I’m lucky enough to live that long enough – I’m 64 now – it is going to take about 15 to 20 years before they are big enough to harvest the oil so that I can use them in a vehicle,” he said.

    “Principally, they are an ideal plantation tree for a family farm where, from generation to generation, you will harvest this oil so that your grandson and your great-grandson can still be virtually getting free fuel from these trees 30 to 50 years in the future.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-03-25/qld-farmers-invest-in-diesel-producing-trees/1082738

  25. The energy source to reduce CO2 is the crucial question. Could it work like this?
    1. Nuclear energy produces H2 from seawater
    2. H2 and CO2 are synthesized into some carbohydrate …

    Guys, please discuss this more seriously. We will need a lot of technology to overcome energy scarcity.

  26. FFS.. leave the CO2 in the atmosphere where it belongs.

    The VERY LAST thing the Earth needs is to lower the atmospheric CO2 concentration

  27. “Basically, what we have done is create a microorganism that does with carbon dioxide exactly what plants do-absorb it and generate something useful,”

    Why don’t we just plant more plants?

  28. Sounds a lot like what trees do, excepting there’s no shade or places for the birds to nest.

  29. “Excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere…”

    Whoa-up right there. Excess? This release hasn’t even left the gate and it’s already going to race down the wrong track.

    If we gave plants the vote, I’m pretty sure they’d vote for a higher level than is currently present. Take a poll of any commercial greenhouse plant and see what they say.

  30. It is also the NWO’s nightmare, they merely use the environmentalists as foot soldiers in the CO2 AGW scare campaign.

  31. What would be funny is if this bug actually worked, got out of control, proliferated, and ate up all the Earth’s CO2, ending life on the planet. :)

  32. “The VERY LAST thing the Earth needs is to lower the atmospheric CO2 concentration”

    Once the fuel has been produce it will be burned. This releases the CO2 back into the atmosphere. The whole process would have no net affect on the atmospheric CO2 concentration.

  33. agricultural economist, nobody it taking it seriously as the press release is complete garbage.

    If scientists want the public to understand there work, then they need to censor the idiots who write these releases, and instead output something beleivable.

    The arcticle claims that the bugs ‘eat’ CO2. Clearly rubbish, so something else is really going on, but they’ve not explained what.

    The claim that sugars cannot easily be extracted from plants seems to overturn 10,000 years of farming practise, so why make this absurd claim?

    There’s no point on objecting the the AGW angle, as that’s always present, so just ignore it. But what it the energy source for these bugs? That’s the vital missing data.

  34. Just recently watched a scientific explanation of the orange coloured atmosphere on the moon Titan. It would seem that the sun reacts with CO2 and hydrogen to form long chain carbohydrates, thus it appears to be swimming in fuel. No dinosaurs have been noticed, perhaps our oil is a natural process, and not fossil.

  35. Not new and not sensible, Joule Unlimited’s patents cover micro organisms which ‘grow’ ethanol or diesel in a continuous, carbon neutral process using waste water, industrial waste CO2 and sunlight on non arable ground.

    They have commissioned a pilot industrial sized plant to prove yields of 15,000 litres an acre at costs as low as $0.17 a litre, transport future is NOT electric

  36. “The research team then used hydrogen gas to create a chemical reaction in the microorganism that incorporates carbon dioxide into 3-hydroxypropionic acid.”

    It’s well-known scientific fact that hydrogen grows in pressure bottles.

  37. agricultural economist @ March 27, 2013 at 2:16 am
    Los Alamos worked out one of the synfuel process using nuclear called Green Freedom, et al, as described here:

    http://www.lanl.gov/newsroom/news-releases/2008/February/02.12.synthetic-fuel.php

    they have a paper on the process.

    What’s new, here, is using microbes in the method. Of course synfuels have been around a long, long time (as in Germany post WW1). All of the current methods do scale. The real issue is whether the little beastie bugs can and their cost.

    All in all, if you were going to spend billions, betting future of the species on which energy path to develop, you’d pick thorium. It’s dirt cheap, it’s just about everywhere, it scales and has essentially no waste. And it can be used to make hydrocarbons, just like Los Alamos but with a different reactor. For the CO2 crackheads, they can build them and freeze the air to make dry ice (frozen CO2) and work on sending it on rockets into the Sun or somewhere. Keep the busy and quiet.

    Point is there’s so many ways to make synfuels we hardly need to spend public funds on it versus doing something worthwhile like keeping the White House open and Joe Biden in Paris. However, it would be great to terraform some planet.

  38. “agricultural economist says:

    March 27, 2013 at 2:16 am”

    Energy scarcity, really? Given we can make liquid fuels from coal, given the UK has at least 300 years of known reserves, given Australia has 400-500 years of known reserves, I don’t see scarcity at all. The scaricty I do see is in the sense to use these resources to the betterment of humanity.

    This seems to be to be yet another call for funding to play without actually producing anything.

  39. “pat says:

    March 27, 2013 at 1:05 am”

    And lets not forget Combet commited 10% of the tax revenue to the UN Climate Change Fund at Copenhagen. I bet the, temporary, seat Australia bought from the UN Security Council will soon be filled with Australias first former female PM.

  40. If one is going to comply with the laws of thermodynamics (and it’s really better if one does), this process needs an energy source. As is deploringly usual for press releases, this one doesn’t seem to specify what the source is although it sort of implies it might be heat differential. That’d be interesting and possibly useful as it’d raise the possibility of using heat from the earth’s core to generate fuels. But more likely, the source is sunlight where there are other alternatives whose current utility varies from sort of OK (solar PV in some situations) to dreadful (corn ethanol).

    I think the Hydrogen thing is just a not necessarily critical process step in going from whatever (unspecified) hydrocarbons the bugs generate to something one can burn in an existing engine. Possibly not what one would do in a pilot plant if the process ever gets that far.

    Environmentalist nightmare? Unproven assumption. Since the process is renewable, many may be relatively OK with it. It’d help a lot if the micro-organisms can be guaranteed to die quickly and universally if they get out of the fuel plant. If they are likely to be fruitful and multiply in the outside world, it probably isn’t just environmentalists that ought to be nervous about them.

  41. (Second try)

    It’s been some time now that some guys in Alicante (Blue Petroleum or something) are producing oil from CO2 and algae. Somehow, nobody cares, maybe because it’s not being done in the US or UK, therefore doesn’t exist.

  42. What global warming?….none for 16 years and overal planet cooling for 10,000 years since we passed the Holocene Climatic Optimum. And the trapped ray’s only exist as a threat in climate playstations, in reality factors such as CO2’s logarithmic ability to create heat and various negative feedbacks cancel this out.

  43. John says:
    March 27, 2013 at 2:50 am

    “The VERY LAST thing the Earth needs is to lower the atmospheric CO2 concentration”

    Once the fuel has been produce it will be burned. This releases the CO2 back into the atmosphere. The whole process would have no net affect on the atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    Well there are many ways of ‘fixing’ CO2 so it remains sequestered away such as in Limestone. The last thing we need is some idiot Malthusian to release into the wild a bacterium that greedily fixes CO2 – It could be one of the most efficient ways of ending all life on the planet. I have a suspicion that these researchers are unaware how close we are to the edge of that cliff.

  44. Keith says:
    An early April Fools day
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    If we adopted this we would be Fools, but IMO it’s just a matter of time before some damn fool does us an irreversible favor and Hansen, Mann and Co. are doing their damnedest.

  45. I am finished with the environmentalists and their feel good cheerleaders. All they have achieved is bad for nature, bad for the environment and bad for our economies, our freedom and future. The Dutch have high gas reserves: http://www.europeanenergyreview.eu/site/pagina.php?id=1109 500,000 billion cubic meters (bcm). This is enough to cover the total current European gas consumption for more than a thousand years. Indeed it is two and a half times the world’s total proven natural gas reserves. EBN/TNO Report: http://www.europeanenergyreview.eu/data/docs/Viewpoints/ebn2306.pdf
    Norway has coal reserves of 3000 billion tons enough to feed the world 1 billion tons of coal for 3000 years. -norway/ Now the good old US has found a new technology for clean burning of coal, see: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/looping203.htm So there is absolutely no argument that tells us we are running out of fossil fuels. All those green zealots telling us to pee in a milk bottle to save water and shut off the city lights to save energy are crazy and in desperate need of mental treatment. The time for debate is over. These people want to have us under centralized control and rather see us dead than alive. I say let them educate themselves or get out of the way. The same goes for the political establishment and their cheerleaders. People are fed up with their poor performance, their dishonesty and the corruption.

    Nice that we may have the opportunity to make fuel out of thin air but for the next thousand years we’re well served with the fossil fuels at our disposal. We need the jobs, we need the power generating capacity, we need the industry to lift the world out of poverty and create a positive view of the future. Those who claim humanity is destroying the planet and Anthropogenic Global Warming caused by Co2 are plain wrong. Mother nature tells us so.

  46. I recieved a prompt and informative reply to an enquiry form Prof Adams confirming my intial comment above.

    Greg – you are of course correct. We did indeed use hydrogen to drive CO2 fixation, as opposed to the light-driven reaction in plants. We are not creating more energy that we put in. In essence the second paragraph of what you quote states that (“the research team then used hydrogen gas to …. incorporate carbon dioxide”). Hopefully that helps.

    Sincerely, Mike Adams.

    We are not creating more energy that we put in.

    This process does NOT and never will be an energy source.

    Thanks to Prof Adams for the confirmation.

  47. “The research team then used hydrogen gas”

    And how do you make industrial size amounts of hydrogen? It doesn’t grow on trees, you know.

    http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/consumer/hydrogen/basics/production.htm says in part:

    There are several methods for producing or extracting hydrogen. Steam reforming is a well-established technology that allows hydrogen production from hydrocarbons and water. Steam-methane reformation currently produces about 95 percent of the hydrogen used in the United States.

    Hydrogen produced by steam reformation costs approximately three times the cost of natural gas per unit of energy produced.

    The steam methane reforming process involves the reaction of natural gas and steam on a nickel catalyst. The first step of the reaction consists of methane decomposing to hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The second step, called the “shift reaction,” reacts carbon monoxide and water (steam) to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

    Oh, Univ. of Georgia. This reads like an MIT press release, e.g.:

    Their discovery may soon lead to the creation of biofuels made directly from the carbon dioxide in the air that is responsible for trapping the sun’s rays and raising global temperatures.

    Uh, no. They better stick with “a host of other useful industrial products.”

  48. Ian W says:
    March 27, 2013 at 4:30 am

    The last thing we need is some idiot Malthusian to release into the wild a bacterium that greedily fixes CO2 – It could be one of the most efficient ways of ending all life on the planet. I have a suspicion that these researchers are unaware how close we are to the edge of that cliff.

    I have a suspicion you haven’t considered the energy budget of this critter or the missing pieces needed to get it up from the bottom of the cliff.

  49. There you go. A prime example of greenies driving human evolution. Every time humans discover a handy source of energy the greenies put the kibosh on it and humans, being what they are, find something better.

  50. Ian W says: “The last thing we need is some idiot Malthusian to release into the wild a bacterium that greedily fixes CO2 ”

    Malthusian or not, it doesn’t matter. Imagine that such a bacterium, nicely engineered, turned out to be very successful in the wild. It could proliferate and trigger the onset of the next glaciation.

    The insanity of playing sorcerer’s apprentice should be obvious.

    Anthony seems to think it funny to mock enviro’s concerns about this but I think it is a very good example of the danger of this kind of tinkering.

    Luckily this one won’t get far because it needs a supply of free hydrogen, ie it’s pretty pointless anyway, but it illustrates the danger.

    It is also an idea that some enviro’s might even accept if they thought it might save the planet from CO2-magedon.

  51. Josualdo says:
    March 27, 2013 at 4:23 am
    “It’s been some time now that some guys in Alicante (Blue Petroleum or something) are producing oil from CO2 and algae. Somehow, nobody cares, maybe because it’s not being done in the US or UK, therefore doesn’t exist.”

    The algae E. Braunii stores energy in oil droplets inside the cell; the composition is very similar to Diesel. So, producing oil with algae is happening in every pond all the time and is not remarkable. It’s the economics that count, and given that Alicante is in Spain in the EU, I would guess that what you mention is a EU subsidized project.

    Their website contains only press releases from 2011. So probably the subsidies ran out and it got shut down.

    http://www.biopetroleo.com/english/noticia/the-worlds-first-ecological-oil-is-made-using-profitable-industrial-processes/

    The real problem is extracting the oil economically – you need to get rid of the water, and drying costs energy – and preventing the pipes or whatever you have the algae in from clogging so you can run a fast breeding cycle automatically. And preventing your algae culture from being polluted by species you don’t want.

    Probably they never made it to that stage.

  52. Patrick says:
    March 27, 2013 at 3:40 am

    “agricultural economist says:

    March 27, 2013 at 2:16 am”

    Energy scarcity, really? Given we can make liquid fuels from coal, given the UK has at least 300 years of known reserves, given Australia has 400-500 years of known reserves, I don’t see scarcity at all. The scaricty I do see is in the sense to use these resources to the betterment of humanity.

    This seems to be to be yet another call for funding to play without actually producing anything.
    ———————————————————————————————————————–

    The US also has abundant energy reserves, especially of clean coal, but also of frackable petroleum & gas, ANWR oil & other fossil fuels that are economically recoverable but politically unavailable. Besides which, fourth generation nuclear technologies like traveling wave reactors are also not being pursued out of ill-founded fear. There is no scarcity of energy, only of will to exploit what nature & human ingenuity have provided.

  53. I suppose a poll could be taken asking :
    “Would you support the development of a bug that could possibly remove so much CO2 from the atmosphere that all life on Earth would perish or a carbon tax?”

    Then it could be claimed that 97% of people support a carbon tax.

  54. I don’t know enough about the science to comment intelligently but am a big Sci-Fi fan. Yah, that will work, the bugs multiply like Stargate Replicators and reduce all CO2 in the atmosphere so plants die, animals die, we die, and the planet loses the benign global temperature boost provided by the CO2 resulting in the Earth becoming a sterile snowball. Great idea!

  55. You cannot create an excess of atmospheric CO2 by injecting only 3-4% of the stuff burning fossil fuels. We have yet to get anything like an excess given recent past volumes were far greater than today’s pitiful amount.

    CO2 does NOT drive temperature/climate. Get used to it.

  56. Bob says:
    March 27, 2013 at 2:01 am
    Using microorganisms to make useful chemical products is not new, erythromycin by fermentation, for example. This doesn’t seem like a big stretch although they are not making alkanes from this modification. A source of hydrogen does seem to somewhat limit its utility.

    Ah, we have been making useful chemical products from microorganisms is MUCH older than that. Anyone want some flavored ethanol? I’ll have the Guiness flavor, please.

  57. Basically, this would be the same as the algae tubes that various startups have tried attaching to coal plants over the years. The article doesn’t mention whether or not this organism requires light for its process that I can see. The wild version obviously doesn’t.

    The previous attempts failed because wild algae suck at producing energy (they don’t waste energy producing the sugars or oils that the modified algae produce, so they easily out compete them) but excel at infiltrating equipment. If this bug can work in an environment that wild algae don’t like (in the dark, acid, high temp), then it has a chance of being useful.

  58. Robert M says:

    March 27, 2013 at 12:14 am

    3. Atmospheric CO2 is needed for all life on the planet, why don’t we slow down and consider what might happen if the research turns out to be really successful. This sounds like a bad movie. Mankind creates a superbug that eats all of the CO2. All plant life on the planet succumbs within a year, and the planet dies. Environmentalists are thrilled!

    Looks like a lot of us had that or a similar thought.

  59. Yeah, let’s invent a frankencritter that could have a leg up on plant life. If it replicates it could suck CO2 down under 150ppm killing all the plants taking us with them.

  60. I read of this YEARSSSSSS ago.
    they were saying then it woyuld “soon” do yadadada
    Whatshappennedsince?

  61. “The process is made possible by a unique microorganism called Pyrococcus furiosus, or “rushing fireball,” which thrives by feeding on carbohydrates in the super-heated ocean waters near geothermal vents. ”

    It amazing down deep in the oceans how microorganisms can survive without sunlight. Where some of the vents are located, live thrives in 700 to 800 degreewater off the carbohydrates .The water does not boil since it is unter so many PSI..

    On the other note,
    With all the nano tech today the “WATER CAR” will be one day a reality!!!! Microorganisms splitting water into HHO.

  62. If you really want to build a system that can overcome some of the problems with solar and wind, but still let older power stations function without major redesign…

    Use the power from the current solar / wind farms to split water into its component molecules.
    Eg. Hydrogen and Oxygen. (sea water works, since salt helps the flow of electrons.)
    Sell the Oxygen you create as a byproduct.
    Pump the hydrogen to storage tanks near the current coal burning power stations.
    Use the hydrogen instead of coal.
    The system is not very efficient , I know, but it does overcome in part the problems with the inherently unstable supplies of energy from solar and wind generators.
    Plus the environmentalists cannot complain, since burning hydrogen just produces clean water as a byproduct.
    Yeah, I know, not as easy as it seems, but it has a shot for funding if I can just work something about saving the environment into the grant application…

  63. E.M.Smith says:
    March 27, 2013 at 1:32 am

    @Jeez

    Already available, and natural too. Called the “Diesel Tree” or “Kerosene Tree”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    You can’t get a grant and a patent from a natural tree and you can’t use it to scam $$$$$ from the Department of Energy. Just don’t mention that tree to Monsanto or they will bio-engineer it so it will grow in the USA south like they did to the eucalyptus Genetically Modified Forest Planned for U.S. Southeast

  64. Info on a pilot plant in Hobbs, NM. – Set to eventually produce 25,000 gallons of ethanol per acre at a cost of $50/barrel for oil and $1.23/barrel for ethanol *without* subsidies Construction engineering problem solver Fluor Corporation is a huge and respected engineering and construction outfit, not some fly-by-night subsidy seeker.

    http://tinyurl.com/cuaytu7

  65. Nick Stokes says:
    March 27, 2013 at 12:17 am
    Reducing CO2 takes a lot of energy.

    Warrick says:
    March 27, 2013 at 12:53 am
    Ummm – and where does the energy to produce the hydrogen come from?
    ============
    Steam + iron releases hydrogen.
    This works well within the earth with a moten mantle, iron core, and water and limestone (fossilized co2) carried by plate techtonics into the interior. The result is hydrocarbons, the so called fossil fuels. The interesting part about this article is that microorganisms deep within the earth may be the missing piece of the puzzle. They provide the necessary enzymes to catalyze the reduction of CO2 and H2O into C4H4 and more complex hydrocarbons using iron as the reducing agent and heat from within the earth as the energy source. .

  66. Ah yes,,,,,,,, memories of an old science fiction movie come to my non-fiction mind.

    Some genetically engineered bug spray may be in order, just in case, no?

  67. Every time I read these articles and papers I think that Scientist Dumb and Scientist Dumber are loopier than ever ever. I keep thinking that I have met Scientist Dumber or read papers from Scientist Dumber — then a new candidate appears.

    Will the real Scientist Dumber please stand up?

    We need to send you on a non-politicized Carbon Cycle course…

    Let’s end this bad movie now!

  68. They want to compete with plants for CO2?! It’s the plants that provide humans with oxygen. Wouldn’t this mean they’ll deplete the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere?

  69. The critical information here is the final paragraph of the press release:

    “The research was supported by the Department of Energy as part of the Electrofuels Program of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy under Grant DE-AR0000081.”

    The researchers were simply responding to the DoE’s call for proposals and probably getting a good chunk of money for training a couple of PhD students in the process. Whether this is ever economically relevant will be a commercial decision by a non-academic enterprise, but probably heavily dependant on some subsidy scheme or other. The press release is a press release – what more can you expect in an age when perception is more important than reality?

    Green plants are very good at photosynthesis and production of biomass – especially when they have higher levels of CO2. The problem is energy density, especially when it comes to liquid fuels for transport, hence the interest in biodiesel conversion (from plant oils) and ethanol production from starch (and cellulose). However, the net energy production in both biodiesel and ethanol production are not all that great because the starting materials either take a lot of energy to produce or need a lot of energy to convert.

    Using microorganisms (bacterial or algae) is a way to try and reduce some of the energy input, with modification of basic metabolism usually needed to overproduce some kind of storage molecule. In small scale examples, there are impressive results often with high levels of conversion to useful compounds (short chain carbohydrates and fatty acids).

    However, these projects have been going on for a long time now (I have 12 years of personal experience) and – just like ethanol from cellulose – are always a “couple of years away from commercial success”. Forgive me if I remain skeptical that this one will be any different.

  70. ‘agricultural economist says:
    March 27, 2013 at 2:16 am
    The energy source to reduce CO2 is the crucial question. Could it work like this?
    1. Nuclear energy produces H2 from seawater
    2. H2 and CO2 are synthesized into some carbohydrate …

    Guys, please discuss this more seriously. We will need a lot of technology to overcome energy scarcity.”
    #######################

    in 2050 there will be 6 billion humans without adequate energy. i would have hoped that this article got a little better response than the knee jerk reactions Ive seen.

  71. AndyG55 says:
    March 27, 2013 at 2:17 am
    The VERY LAST thing the Earth needs is to lower the atmospheric CO2 concentration
    ============
    If CO2 actually warmed the planet as a whole it would be impossible for the cycle of ice ages to occur, given the very small change in solar energy that results from the earth’s orbit, and the fact that a warming ocean releases CO2 and a cooling ocean absorbs CO2.

    Thus, it is illogical for scientists to argue that CO2 warms the planet until this paradox is resolved. Any theory that is at odds with observation is wrong.

  72. R. de Haan
    You are a victim of the misinformation highway. I refer to your inference about Dutch natural gas. You link to a 2009 European Energy Review article, whose title says ‘reserves’ but whose first paragraph immediately switches to resources (OGIP). In the US in the past decade, fracking of the Barnett, Fayetteville, Marcellus, and other gas shales has led to technically recoverable reserves of at most 13% of OGIP, and that only economically recoverable in geographically limited sweet spots. Translation, it is not nearly as big as the article misleads.
    The EBN report “Focus on Dutch gas 2009″ on which this internet article was based is available. Its first paragraph reads in part, ” In 2008 Dutch gas production was about 80 billion cubic meters…. the total expectation of all [future] prospects is 400 bcd” That is, exhaustion from all future to be drilled possibilities in 5 years at current production rates.That expectation specifically includes shale gas in unconventional resources figure 2.4. The Dutch OIGP is large but the potential TRR is small. Actually, what the report specifically shows is that Dutch natural gas output peaks in 2010, and will have declined by more than 90% by 2040 including fracked shale gas.

  73. “Athens, Ga. – Excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere created by the widespread burning of fossil fuels is the major driving force of global climate change, and researchers the world over are looking for new ways to generate power that leaves a smaller carbon footprint.”

    Stopped reading after this opening sentence. All pretense of objectivity is out the window when articles open like this, therefore the “science” in the article is questionable.

  74. agricultural economist says:
    March 27, 2013 at 2:16 am

    The energy source to reduce CO2 is the crucial question…
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    As an agricultural economist you want to REDUCE CO2 when C3 plants are near starvation levels??? Carbon starvation in glacial trees recovered from the La Brea tar pits, southern California And we may be near the end of the Holocene?

    Given the arguments going on as to if/when the Holocene will end and whether we are already entering the long ‘bumpy’ descent into glaciation link, the last thing I want to do is mess with our CO2 security blanket and the food supply it provides.

    Only grant seekers, crony capitalists and the brainwashed would not take a good long look at the downside of this idea because even those who think we are looking at a double precessional cycle like MIS-11 instead of the normal half of a precessional cycle agree the earth will be only ~ 10 Wm2 above the low necessary to cause glaciation and that is the subject of much debate. This means, as the proxy records shows, a long term cooling as the oceans lose heat. Colder water ABSORBS CO2 so messing with the level of CO2 in the atmosphere could well be suicide for much of the animal life on earth long term.

    This is a newer paper ( April 2012)

    Can we predict the duration of an interglacial?
    [WUWT discussion of paper by same title]
    I will leave it to the experts to comment and debate as to whether or not we are perhaps seeing the onset of said bipolar seesaw in Arctic/Antarctic sea ice, and whether or not such is applicable in an anthropogenic greenhouse-gas world.

    However, we might need to consider:

    “We propose that the interval between the “terminal” oscillation of the bipolar seesaw, preceding an interglacial, and its first major reactivation represents a period of minimum extension of ice sheets away from coastlines.”

    As we work our way through this paper, we find:

    “With respect to the end of interglacials, the MIS 5e– 5d transition represents the only relevant period with direct sea-level determinations and precise chronologies that allow us to infer a sequence of events around the time of glacial inception (Fig. 2).”

    and this….

    Thus, glacial inception occurred ~3 kyr before the onset of significant bipolar-seesaw variability.

    and this….

    “Given the large decrease in summer insolation over the Last Interglacial as a result of the strong eccentricity-precession forcing, we suggest that the value of 3 kyr may be treated as a minimum. We thus estimate interglacial duration as the interval between the terminal occurrence of bipolar-seesaw variability and 3 kyr before its first major reactivation.”

    ….he take-home context, in terms of CO2 forcing might be encapsulated by this:

    “A corollary of all this is that we should also be able to predict the duration of the current interglacial in the absence of anthropogenic interference. The phasing of precession and obliquity (precession minimum/insolation maximum at 11 kyr BP; obliquity maximum at 10 kyr BP) would point to a short duration, although it has been unclear whether the subdued current summer insolation minimum (479Wm−2), the lowest of the last 800 kyr, would be sufficient to lead to glaciation (e.g. Crucifix, 2011). Comparison with MIS 19c, a close astronomical analogue characterized by an equally weak summer insolation minimum (474Wm−2) and a smaller overall decrease from maximum summer solstice insolation values, suggests that glacial inception is possible despite the subdued insolation forcing, if CO2 concentrations were 240±5 ppmv (Tzedakis et al., 2012).”

    I have sent Anthony the raw and highlighted versions. A bloody good read.

    cp-8-1473-2012 (PDF raw)

    cp-8-1473-2012 HLT (PDF highlighted)

  75. “Enivronmentalists … ”

    Suggested spelling change: Enivronmentalists to Environmentalists in several appearances.

  76. Call the Center for Disease Control!! It’s just down the road from them. Don’t let these little bastards outside! Ya know, there should be a rule that these researchers get out more. There is something in these towers that short circuits the brain. Don’t they wonder if this could be a terrible thing to do. Nearly every commenter here picked up on this, but no one from UGA appears to have. I thought bringing in lions to take care of the rabbit problem was a thing of the past.

  77. Environmentalists should be cheering about this new bug, but something tells me they will hate the whole idea of a CO2 munching organism. How they respond to this will be a test of their sincerity.

    Um, shouldn’t the creators of this bug create predator for it as well?

  78. jayhd says: March 27, 2013 at 8:03 am

    “Athens, Ga. – Excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere created by the widespread burning of fossil fuels is the major driving force of global climate change, and researchers the world over are looking for new ways to generate power that leaves a smaller carbon footprint.”
    Stopped reading after this opening sentence. All pretense of objectivity is out the window when articles open like this, therefore the “science” in the article is questionable.

    With all due respect Jay, you are going to miss out on a lot of good information with that approach.

    I think it is very common for any researcher to try to tie his paper to current issues (whether or not the researcher really has any belief in the issue), and perhaps even more so for his reviewers to insist he/she does so.

  79. ferdberple says:
    March 27, 2013 at 7:35 am
    Nick Stokes says:
    March 27, 2013 at 12:17 am
    Reducing CO2 takes a lot of energy.

    Warrick says:
    March 27, 2013 at 12:53 am
    Ummm – and where does the energy to produce the hydrogen come from?
    ============
    Steam + iron releases hydrogen.
    This works well within the earth with a moten mantle, iron core, and water and limestone (fossilized co2) carried by plate techtonics into the interior. The result is hydrocarbons, the so called fossil fuels. The interesting part about this article is that microorganisms deep within the earth may be the missing piece of the puzzle. They provide the necessary enzymes to catalyze the reduction of CO2 and H2O into C4H4 and more complex hydrocarbons using iron as the reducing agent and heat from within the earth as the energy source. .
    ————————————————————————————————————————

    I agree that an ingredient in Gold’s hypothesized “abiogenic” petroleum may well be deep subterranean microbes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenic_petroleum_origin

    That the crust- or lower-dwelling biogenic organisms might resemble deep sea vent extremophiles naturally suggests itself. Imagine the peak horror if life in the Earth were found to produce “fossil fuels” continuously (even if at a lower pace than our use or not economically recoverably).

  80. DrDelos says:
    March 27, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Info on a pilot plant in Hobbs, NM….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    At least they have done the pilot scale work and are now doing a “proof of design plant,” so they get several thumbs up from me.

    I HATE the lab bench to plant using a Department of Defense grant – OOPS stockholders it didn’t work, sorry better luck next time scams. Maurice Strong/Al Gore’s Molten Metals Inc scam being an all time classic.

  81. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326151125.htm

    Assuming it’s correct, it raises an interesting problem. Fluid Injection doesn’t cause earthquakes (how could it?). it merely triggers a quake that would have happened sooner or later anyway by lubricating the slip zone. So, if one were to inject fluids into the San Andreas fault and it set off a multi-billion dollar magnitude 6.0 eathquake, would that be better or worse than waiting a century for another 8.0 quake that will, for a near certainty, completely flatten San Francisco (again) a century hence?

  82. Oops posted that to the wrong web site . [snip . . OT . . mod]

    Totally unconnected to WUWT and this thread

  83. To Matt who questioned the efficiency:

    This is a technological step, not the endpoint. However, if one were eventually to develop a bug/s that produced, let’s say ethanol, directly, then it is perfectly possible for a 3% (or even worse) efficiency to compete with a solar panel at 20% or greater. The form of the energy output is part of it’s value, and a liquid fuel has advantages (market value) a stream of electrical power may not.

  84. markx – I won’t miss diddly. If the research truly has merit, someone somewhere will publish the results of the research or study without the obligatory BS.

  85. This could have an even greater benefit for humanity if it finally can make people stop smoking. Accidentally inhale one of those bugs and then light up — WHOOSH!!!!!!

  86. Nick Stokes says: “Reducing CO2 takes a lot of energy. Plants get that from sunlight, but it takes chlorophyll and a lot of leaves. And these bugs?”

    Maybe we should “leave” them alone.

  87. Relax. It’s just one study and one species. Lots of species are being looked into, and lots of companies and university departments are working on them. When somebody makes 100 kilos per week at a computable price, that will be news.

  88. @Markx:

    A species can have a large response to selection in 30 generations. (That’s a more or less consistent number across all species, per the genetics I had at University 40 years back… don’t know if times have changed that metric for selective pressure) So if we start selecting now for faster growth and maturity, we could have a faster Diesel Tree in just 300 to 600 years…

    Or GMO the sucker and be done in 10 to 20 years…

    The bottom line is that the entire metabolic pathway is a ‘done deal’ and just needs tweaking the tree or moving to another species… Invention not required.

    FWIW, fast growth algae in nitrogen deficient environments pack away solar energy for later use (when they hope nitrogen will show up and allow cell division) as oil. Up to 50% by weight. They can yield 10 x as much per acre or hectare as woody / grassy plants. (It’s a bit hard to grow them in open raceways – think cheap – as the native algae tend to blow in and take over. Easy to grow them in sealed glass or plastic tubes – think expensive – though. But it’s been done by many folks and the oil used to make biodiesel.)

    Plants know what to do… we just need to find how to make them comfortable. More CO2 helps ;-)

  89. klem says:
    March 27, 2013 at 8:36 am

    …Um, shouldn’t the creators of this bug create predator for it as well?
    XXXXXXXXXXX

    This hints at my salient question: Are they tasty?

  90. @Don K:

    We don’t notice a 6 all that much. You notice, but don’t change the lunch plans. At a 7 (10x more energy and damage) we are down for a week and lose circa 100 lives. An 8? That’s 100 x the size of a 6. So you would have to trigger 100 quakes of size 6 or one every single year for your ‘century later’ avoidance of an 8 event. I think folks would get tired of a ‘6 size a year’ plan…

    FWIW, that same 6 size event, not on our soft and ‘adapted to slip’ rocks, but somewhere like Oklahoma with brittle mid-continent rocks, feels like a lot more and does more damage. I don’t know exactly why and that “softer vs brittle” is just how it has been described by others, so I’m just parroting it here, not endorsing it… but the effect is real. (My theory is that our fault is submerged under the N.Atlantic plate where the old spreading zone subducted, so gets dampened by a discontinuity zone of all the sediments and ‘junk’ that got scraped into a pile to make the coastal range hills… but ask a real geologist. I just like surfing the P wave ;-)

    So I think you need your ‘example’ to be 6 vs 7 rather than vs 8… BTW, we’ve had an 8.6 and we could have a 9 somewhere between L.A. and Seattle; so that would be 1000 quakes of 6 size. Releasing the energy ‘slowly’ is, er, hard to do; with that much energy to dump.

  91. Pyrococcus furiosus has a doubling time of just 37 minutes and reproduces extremely fast. If the reverse engineered strain which eats CO2 rather than produces CO2 get out into the air, they can quickly wipe out CO2 and induce planet wide extinction.

  92. Gee, I wonder why there are no ET civilizations around. I sure hope humankind doesn’t end up killing off itself and all life on Earth through insane genetic engineering with microbes like what’s happening now.

  93. Gail Combs says (March 27, 2013 at 8:07 am): “As an agricultural economist you want to REDUCE CO2 when C3 plants are near starvation levels???”

    I think agricultural economist meant “reduce CO2″ in the chemical sense, as in replacing the oxygen with hydrogen. He was wondering where the process gets the input energy.

    You’re right, of course, that we could use some more CO2 in the atmosphere, both for our friends the plants and hopefully some more winter/night/northern warming.

  94. Set your minds at ease. Starting today, this technology will be at least ten years into the future. Next year, or five years from now, it’ll still be ten years into the future. Once the scientists get their cars and mortgages paid off and their offspring through college they’ll retire and someone else will get a bright idea that won’t go anywhere.

  95. Xi Gua says (March 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm): “I sure hope humankind doesn’t end up killing off itself and all life on Earth through insane genetic engineering with microbes like what’s happening now.”

    Not to worry, everybody. The Earth is already overrun with CO2-gobbling organisms, and it all seems to have worked out pretty well.

    “Gee, I wonder why there are no ET civilizations around.”

    They probably listened to their own rabid environmentalists and greened themselves into extinction. :-)

  96. Pyrococcus furiosus grows where temperature is around 100 C. Good luck with obtaining the heat energy to grow these microbes at industrial scales.

  97. I can’t get past the bit where these things escape, multiply exponentially and wipe out all life on the face of planet Earth.

    This is a project that should be killed stone dead.

  98. Meanwhile, there are real microscopic problems for mankind: smut, scab, rust, blast, blight, bunt, wilt, mildew and the rest, along with malaria and other diseases carried by vectors. These need to be declared as pollutants, which if anyone acts to re-introduce or multiply, through irresponsible policies, must be prosecutable through plain and just laws.

    Once more: the real pollutants on this earth are smut, scab, rust, blast, blight, bunt, wilt, mildew and the rest, along with malaria and other diseases carried by vectors. These have been brought under control through chemical fertilizers, creation of new cultivars, and through pesticides, but are not guaranteed to remain under control without heightened vigilance.

  99. While I differ with the evaluation of “excess CO2 in the atmosphere” it is good to see genetic engineering aimed at providing fuel. That is one area that has been ignored in the rush to control the world’s seed crops but a hundred times more lucrative.

    Confinement or having the critters die if exposed to oxygen or nitrogen in normal atmospheric quantities or any normal temp (as seems to be the case) would be a nice safeguard. Now will it be cost competitive with natural gas? Unsubsidized of course. I could see this working if put next to a coal or other CO2 emitting plant. Excess heat, CO2 and bugs = fuel.

  100. On a more abstract scale, this is extremely dangerous. We do NOT want the industrial scale extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere. While yes, we have put a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere, it is ephemeral. If we were to migrate to a mainly nuclear/electric economy, that CO2 would start coming out of the atmosphere fairly quickly.

    The reason it is dangerous is that CO2 depletion will ultimately be the cause of the demise of life on Earth long before the sun gets too hot or the seas evaporate into space. As CO2 is scrubbed out of the atmosphere by natural forces and the Earth cools and plate tectonics and volcanic activity slows down, CO2 content of the atmosphere falls. We were already dangerously low in CO2 content at the end of the last interglacial to the point where many species were having trouble being productive enough to survive. As the CO2 content drops, the plants become less productive and the animals that survive on the plants become less productive until they are gone.

    Adding more CO2 to Earth’s atmosphere has given us a little longer on this planet. At the rate of CO2 depletion we have seen over the past few million years, I had given animal life only about 100-200 million more years of life on the planet provided we don’t have something come along that injects a large amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.

  101. So what source of energy does this pico-octopus use to make hydrocarbon fuels out of CO2, and presumably water; both miraculously emitted in about the right proportions by our automobiles ?

  102. Not to worry that CO2 eating bugs will destroy the world. This group at UGA is just spending grant money and learning something about genetic engineering. For producing fuel from CO2, Joule Unlimited is way, way, ahead of them

    Apparently Joule’s “bugs,” which produce ethanol and a hydrocarbon that can be blended with diesel fuel from sunlight and CO2, really do work. They commissioned their demonstration plant in Hobbs, N.M. last September. See:

    http://www.jouleunlimited.com/news/2012/joule-commissions-first-sunsprings-plant-demonstrate-commercial-readiness

    Their demonstration plant in Hobbs is apparently a scale-up of their pilot plant in Leander, TX. I haven’t found anything thing that says the Hobbs plant has produced any fuel, but it would appear that any problems they have are of an engineering nature. The “bugs” do what they are supposed to do.

    Joule talks about a yield of 10,000 gallons/acre per year. So how much land would take to replace the just the low-sulfur diesel market? According to DOE, 52,920,000,000 gallons of low-sulfur diesel were supplied to the US market in 2012. See:

    http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_cons_psup_dc_nus_mbbl_a.htm

    At 10,000 gallons an acre, it would take 826, 602 SQUARE MILES to produce this amount of diesel. While New Mexico has lot of empty land, its total area is only 121, 412 sq. miles. So it would take a land area over 6 times the size of New Mexico to supply the diesel used in US in 2012.

    Obviously, this technology is not going to supply a large part of the market..

  103. “The research team then used hydrogen gas to create a chemical reaction in the microorganism”

    Indeed. And where is hydrogen coming from? Furthermore, if they already have hydrogen (nothing to see here move along), why feed it to pyrococcus furiosus to get a messy mixture of organic molecules instead of using it directly as feedstock to any number of well known and quite specific chemical processes?

  104. I saw “University of Georgia” and immediately thought, “This outta be good.” Then I started reading and laughed out loud – They are proud and have discovered TREES! Alert the media! We’ve been making fuel and polymers from trees for decades. Wonderhow long it will take before they realize they don’t have to add hydrogen…..
    -GT ChE

  105. Why is a nightmare? The same CO2 that is sucked out of the atmosphere is put right back in when the fuel is exhausted. It’s CO2 neutral, eviros would love that.

  106. Jake2 says:
    March 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Why is a nightmare? …
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Because if it works then the underlying the real objectives of the CAGW scam go down the tubes. That is the real reason the USA and EU are ignoring Thorium Nuclear and giving it away to China and India.

    The first objective of the CAGW scam is carbon trading for the bankers and a carbon tax for the politicians.

    World Bank Carbon Finance Report for 2007
    The carbon economy is the fastest growing industry globally with US$84 billion of carbon trading conducted in 2007, doubling to $116 billion in 2008, and expected to reach over $200 billion by 2012 and over $2,000 billion by 2020

    The second objective is to push everyone into cities and take away all transportation. It is called Agenda 21. See: Video or link and link THIS is the ‘Socialist Utopia’ although liberals like Rosa Koire are seeing it for what it really is, slavery/neo-feudalism/communitarianism/corporatism disguised as socialism.

  107. policycritic says:
    March 27, 2013 at 4:26 am

    Thanks for the link. Everyone here should read the best review of Mr. Watt’s work I’ve seen.

    By the way; props Mr. Watts, on the great PV system. If 15% of folks followed your example, we wouldn’t need a “climate skeptic” website. WUWT could become a DIY blog. Good job. JP

  108. If this bug is feeding on CO2, where is the energy input coming from? It is not photosynthetic, and the hydrogen only seems to come into play later.

  109. J Martin says:
    March 27, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I can’t get past the bit where these things escape, multiply exponentially and wipe out all life on the face of planet Earth.

    This is a project that should be killed stone dead.

    Go back and read the comments on the energy budget. Hydrogen gas ain’t cheap and even it if were, the evolutionary pressures would quickly shut down the fuel making aspect of the critter if the critter had no use for it.

    Energy budget
    Energy budget
    Energy budget

    Now, if the change the critter to use sunlight as an energy source, well then, you’ve got a problem. Earth has been there, done that. We call it algae.

  110. Matt says:
    March 27, 2013 at 12:12 am
    This is not going anywhere, we know that already. The efficiency of bacteria is about 3% only. Now look at the efficiency of solar panels, etc – and those are no good to solve our issues with an efficiency of ~17-20% (?). Interesting, but it’s not going to happen.

    You can watch Seth Lloyd on Quantum Life on Youtube, where he explains the workings and efficiency of bacteria turning sunlight into energy through photosysthesis.

    But with plants, it takes geological processes over millions of years to make oil, coal, or other fossil fuels, or we have to use (currently) very inefficient processes to harvest plants and create biofuels. If this works as advertised, it could save time or money.

    However, it would still create a carbon fuel. Horrors! Also, nobody has shown any real-world harm from the levels of C02 was have now or the higher levels we expect to see in the next century. We do know that CO2 levels can be too low, which would be detrimental to all life.

    So I’m not really worried. First of all, there’s more oil and gas and other carbon-fuels available that anybody ever dreamed of. Second, there’s no real-world evidence that humanity’s burning of these fossil fuels is harming the climate (yes, there are some other environmental effects from mining, drilling, refining, burning, etc., but no harmful climate effects). Third, it’s still carbon-based, and that makes it an abhorrence.

  111. The first sentence is:
    “Excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere created by the widespread burning of fossil fuels is the major driving force of global climate change, ”

    And then I skipped the rest…..

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