Thursday, November 08, 2007


Mapping Life

Juan Enriques in his 13 October SALT talk (summary, mp3) made an interesting comparison between agriculture and energy. It used to be that in agriculture we threw bigger machines (tractors, combines, etc.) and chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers) at the little plant. Then in the 1960's we changed the plant itself -- the green revolution. By changing the plant itself, we solved the food problem we could never solve by throwing more machines and chemical at the plant.

Now consider hydrocarbon fuels (coal, oil). We are currently throwing more machines at them (digging deeper, oil extraction from shale, etc.). But what if we could change the coal itself? Could we make a bacteria that eats coal or oil and excretes natural gas? Just let them loose in a coal mine or oil shale and harvest the natural gas. Or could we genetically engineer the bacteria in the ocean that absorb carbon out of the air to also absorb hydrogen out of the water and produce hydrocarbons for us? We could build power generation plants that run off of air and water and a domesticated bacteria.

Labels: , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?