Department of Energy mobilizing genetics to fight oil dependency

The Department of Energy (DOE) is working closely with the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in the development of alternative fuels: specifically, ethanol. The aim is to produce ethanol with a high energy output and that is inexpensive to make. Currently, much of ethanol produced in the U.S. is from corn and soybean. The DOE is aiming to produced ethanol whose wholesale cost is a $1 or less per gallon which would make it competitive to fossil fuels. Currently ethanol is subsidized at 51 cents per gallon.
Several technologies are currently being examined. The JGI is looking to grow genetically modified plants such as poplar trees and switchgrass to produce more ethanol. Another project includes examining microbes that live in a termite's gut and find ways for them to efficiently digest plant material into sugars which are later converted to ethanol. Representatives, though, state that the fruits of such research are years away from public consumption. Other issues like growing biofuels without the use of fossil energy (e.g., gasoline powered tractors, etc.) and toxic fertilizers need to be addressed as well.

Related: DOE looking for tips on cellulosic ethanol

[Source: Contra Costa Times]

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