Engineering: just like magic, only it works.
John Love from the University of Exeter in the UK and colleagues took genes from the camphor tree, soil bacteria and blue-green algae and spliced them into DNA from Escherichia coli bacteria. When the modified E. coli were fed glucose, the enzymes they produced converted the sugar into fatty acids and then turned these into hydrocarbons that were chemically and structurally identical to those found in commercial fuel.
“We are biologically producing the fuel that the oil industry makes and sells,” says Love.
The team now needs to work out how to scale-up the project to mass-produce hydrocarbons.
They also figure that they can make this stuff live off of non-vegetable waste products, which means: they’re suggesting that eventually their bugs will eat sh*t and sh*t diesel. Ain’t that a thing? – Well, unless you’re a radical Green. In that case you’re looking at the possible ruination of your precious, minority-killing ethanol program AND facing that scary old devil known as Cheap Energy.
PS: Always remember, of course, that this could be blue-sky or vaporware. It’s certainly not cost-effective at the moment. But here’s the thing: an advance like this requires no new insight into the laws of physics. It merely involves the transformation of one complex carbon molecule into a different complex carbon molecule.