Progress from Craig Venter

I have previously posted on Venter’s work using bio-engineering to create new energy sources. Now he has some results. This will be a huge development when it becomes practical and that is coming closer.

He displayed a black-and-white image of a piece of coal that appeared to be carpeted with a mossy substance, saying it’s an organism that eats coal and makes a cleaner-burning fuel. “We and BP think we can scale this up substantially,” Venter said, referring to the global energy giant that became a development partner and investor in Synthetic Genomics two years ago. “We’re not too far away from making an announcement to scale this up.”

It isn’t just energy research that is being made.

Venter explained that the samples collected by the expedition so far represent enormous genomic diversity. “There were less than 1 million genes in the public databases when we started,” Venter said. Now there are more than 20 million. And by using what he called “combinatorial genomics” to screen that database, Venter said it’s possible to identify and select genes to create new chromosomes.

Algae came in for some big talk, as well.

“All of our petroleum today came from algae, it’s just old algae,” Briggs said, referring to crude oil created from dense blankets of algae that lived 400 million years ago. Now, by using genetic engineering, Briggs said Sapphire and other companies are optimizing algae to directly produce gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Briggs said such biofuels technologies appear capable of someday producing 200,000 barrels of jet fuel a day—enough to supply the needs of the U.S. Air Force—from algae grown on less than 800,000 acres. “It’s not crazy to imagine that by the year 2050 we (the United States) could become an oil exporter again,” Briggs said.

The Biosphere is getting some attention. I have previously written about the Third Kingdom, the world of extremophiles and the biosphere. Here it is getting some deserved attention.

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