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A microscope image of the genetically modified bacterias shows a number of diesel molecules which it is forming.  (Source: CNN)

Biochemist Stephen del Cardayre is the vice president of research and development at LS9. He holds a vial of his company's prized bacteria. The brown fluid at the top of the vial is diesel that the bacteria excreted, mixed with water.  (Source: CNN)
Genetic engineering yields hope for fossil fuel replacement

DailyTech previously covered startup LS9 Inc.'s efforts to genetically engineer microbes to produce synthetic fuels.  After initial efforts to genetically modify both yeast and bacteria to produce long-chain hydrocarbons, they have since focused their efforts on a particular common bacterium -- E. Coli.

E. Coli is commonly found in feces, and the LS9 researchers have succeeded in a rather ironic goal -- genetically modifying the bacteria to excrete diesel fuel.  After much research and genetic modification, LS9 says it has used a variety of common sugar metabolic pathways to force E. Coli to convert virtually any sugar-containing substance in part to carbon chains virtually indistinguishable with diesel.

The bacteria "poop" out this black gold, while using part of the sugar to fuel their growth and reproduction as well.  The net result is that any carbon source can be turned into synthetic fuel by the economic bacteria. 

Biochemist Stephen del Cardayre, LS9 vice president of research and development, says his company has come a long way.  He states, "We started in my garage two years ago, and we're producing barrels today, so things are moving pretty quickly."

He explains the process of creating the microbes, stating, "So these are bacteria that have been engineered to produce oil.  They started off like regular lab bacteria that didn't produce oil, but we took genes from nature, we engineered them a bit [and] put them into this organism so that we can convert sugar to oil."

While the microbes are currently only producing diesel fuel, they could easily be tuned to produce gasoline or jet fuel according to Mr. Cardayre.  Best of all, the bacteria don't have to use simple sugars such as corn, a major criticism of the ethanol infrastructure.  The increased demand for corn by the ethanol industry is accused of raising food prices.  Instead they can use a variety of "foods" including sugar cane, landscaping waste, wheat straw, and wood chips.    The microbes used are a "friendly" noninfectious type of E. Coli that lack the proteins needed to invade the human body, which some strains of E. Coli are capable of doing.

Robert McCormick, principal engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado remains skeptical of LS9's claims.  He adds, "Scalability is really the critical issue.  If you've got something that you can make work in a test tube, that's good, but you've got to be able to make it work on a very large scale to have an impact on our petroleum imports."

LS9 is not only confident they can scale the technology, but they also believe that their oil will be significant to the oil found in fossil fuel deposits.  Typical oil deposits contain significant amounts of sulfur that get released into the atmosphere, creating acid rain which destroys forests, limestone, marble, and damages lake ecosystems.  It also contains benzene, a carcinogen that can cause cancer even in very small quantities.

The E. Coli produced diesel has none of these unwanted extras, it's just pure black gold.  Unlike ethanol, it can be pumped along existing infrastructure, LS9 is quick to point out.

While they hope to be entering commercial level production in the next couple years, they acknowledge that even if they continue their path of unlikely and rapid success, their technology is not a magical solution to the global energy crisis.  Mr. Cardayre states, "I think that the answer to reducing our petroleum-import problem and reducing the carbon emissions from transportation is really threefold.  It involves replacement fuels like biofuels, it involves using much more efficient vehicles than we use today, and it involves driving less."

He says that LS9's success and continued prospects are only thanks to constant collaboration by a diverse team of experts from many different professions.  He continues, "The fun of the challenge from the science perspective is that you do have farmers and biologists and entomologists, and biochemists and chemical engineers, and process engineers and business people and investors all working to solve this, and it ranges anywhere from a political issue to a technical issue."

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By wvh on 8/12/2008 6:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
I can foresee the same problems popping up – you still need a lot of sugar or other food for the bacteria, and this will have a negative impact when scaled to anywhere near the amount needed to be useful as a replacement for "real" oil.

The real problem is overpopulation. It's not going to be easy with existing forms of energy sources to use natural resources for providing all human beings with all the power they need. Drinkable water, agricultural space and yield, oil... It's all getting a bit tight, and that won't improve. There will gradually be more people than natural resources.

RE: catch-22
By Choppedliver on 8/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: catch-22
By michael2k on 8/12/2008 7:46:53 PM , Rating: 4
Uh, like how computers were technological marvels 20 years ago but old hat now?

Or how cell phones were ginormous 20 years ago but in everyone's pocket now?

20 years is a good number, unfortunately; if this means anything then in 20 years we will all be powered by bio-diesel from L9

RE: catch-22
By porkpie on 8/12/2008 8:12:39 PM , Rating: 2
I think you mean more like 40 years. 20 years ago computers were being sold by college students from their dorm rooms.

The fact is the OP has a point. Most of these 'inventions' like this just plain aren't practical and will never see the light of day.

RE: catch-22
By Rob94hawk on 8/12/2008 11:11:37 PM , Rating: 3
Hopefully in another 20 years we wont need fossil fuels. But that's wishful thinking.

RE: catch-22
By afkrotch on 8/12/2008 11:15:42 PM , Rating: 2
In 88, there were around 45 million PCs in homes in the US. 40 years ago seems about right.

Anyways, not all inventions will make it big, but they do open eyes. This may not be the one that prevails, but it may lead the path for another that does.

I'm not gonna expect such an invention to come out and hit the market within the year. It's not like this one is even complete. They probably did a press release, just to get ppl to hear and possibly invest money.

RE: catch-22
By mindless1 on 8/13/2008 3:01:38 PM , Rating: 2
20 years was fine, in 88 most people didn't have a PC, even colleges back then didn't have good access to computer resources outside a few fields unless you're talking about sitting at a mainframe terminal, not a PC.

RE: catch-22
By DFranch on 8/13/2008 3:36:40 PM , Rating: 2
I started college in 1987. I had a PC at home and we had PC's at college. we also had a mainframe at college.

RE: catch-22
By DFranch on 8/13/2008 3:39:00 PM , Rating: 2
The point he was trying to make is that he would like to see one of these breakthroughs actually start making a difference. Whether PC's were in a similar position 20 or 30 years ago is kind of irrelevant.

RE: catch-22
By Choppedliver on 8/13/2008 3:09:07 AM , Rating: 1
How old are you?

In 1988, I had an Amiga 1000. In 1982 I was programming an Apple II+... and I know plenty of people on this site go back farther than me. Computers have been out for a LONG time.

Plenty of inventions in history have come along and turned industries upside down practically overnight. We need one of those NOW.

RE: catch-22
By afkrotch on 8/13/2008 3:14:43 AM , Rating: 2
Plenty of inventions in history have come along and turned industries upside down practically overnight. We need one of those NOW.

Name one. "oooooohhhhhs" and "aaaahhhhhs" doesn't put the invention into mass production and into everyone's homes overnight. Not even "practically" overnight.

RE: catch-22
By Choppedliver on 8/13/2008 4:43:00 AM , Rating: 5
The atom bomb...

Lets see the Cotton Gin increased cotton production 50x "overnight"

Penicillin, other antibiotics

Immunizations/vaccines ... Polio? Small Pox?

The wheel (ha)


Internet... Ok it wasnt invented in the the early 90s, but once it was made available to the public, and easy to use with the HTTP protocol its adoption was very quick.

The camera

Digital Cameras have done a number on the traditional film industry in a relatively "overnight" time frame. They have been widespread for a number of years now.


The printing press was pretty good Id say. I didnt say "put it in everyones home" those were your words


GPS guided weapons

Light bulb was a pretty good one



Birth Control



http protocol



CD's both audio and data storage

You can debate time frames all you want, debate their importance all you want. Some of these took longer than others, some are more important. My point is that some inventions take many years to achieve a high level of adoption, some don't. We need one that doesn't. Not every invention takes 20+ years to become commercially viable.

RE: catch-22
By Jaybus on 8/13/2008 10:35:28 AM , Rating: 1
In spite of high ideals, cost is the factor that most affects the adoption rate of new technology. Most of your list started out as expensive items used only by a few early adopters, then became ubiquitous after the cost became significantly lower. Infrastructure plays a big role in that cost reduction. Technologies that requires an entire new infrastructure, such as hydrogen fuel cells and ethanol fueled cars, are going to be more slowly adopted than technologies that can utilize existing infrastructure, such as this bio-engineered diesel fuel.

So, this may actually be a quick solution if it indeed can be scaled sufficiently and they can also produce gasoline in addition to diesel. Any solution requiring everyone buy new cars is certainly going to take years longer than a solution that works with existing cars.

RE: catch-22
By inighthawki on 8/13/2008 9:24:11 PM , Rating: 2
I think a serious problem also has something to do with the fact that many businesses are scared to try new technology. New inventions are created all the time, many especially useful and convenient; however, what motivates the businesses to use this product? Why should ford begin mass producing electric/hydrogen cars if their line of gas powered vehicles are still selling like hotcakes (replace ford with whatever company u wish...). Why should gas stations start selling hydrogen fuel and offer recharge stations when they make money from gas? One of the best ways of selling out new technology is by merging the new and old technologies into one.

A big example is a processor. When amd released their athlon 64 line of cpus, not many people used it for the 64-bit advantage. If the cpu was ONLY 64-bit, it wouldn't have sold many at all, but because it ALSO supported the x86 arch, it allowed people to be ready for the new technology wherever and whenever it was offered.

Not to say that is is incredibly easy to merge hydrogen powered engines with gas powered ones, but look at the volt for example, electric motor with a gas backup, which gives the consumer the ability to move on to new technology, while being able to use old technology as a backup in case something goes "wrong" and their investment isn't supported where they are.

RE: catch-22
By FITCamaro on 8/12/2008 6:29:56 PM , Rating: 3
Take all the grass clippings that get collected and thrown in the city dumps and convert them to fuel. Problem solved.

And all the more reason to find ways off this rock.

RE: catch-22
By LuxFestinus on 8/12/2008 8:25:32 PM , Rating: 2
Not just grass clippings, but take fecal waste and convert that too.

RE: catch-22
By Jedi2155 on 8/13/2008 1:12:28 AM , Rating: 5
Making poop from poop and driving with poop...I love it!

RE: catch-22
By OAKside24 on 8/13/2008 3:12:10 AM , Rating: 2
Me too, but I can only imagine the smell.

RE: catch-22
By ceefka on 8/13/2008 7:51:06 AM , Rating: 2
Just when you thought diesel had lost its distinctive smell.

This puts a whole new angle on the toilets at gasstations...

RE: catch-22
By therealnickdanger on 8/13/2008 12:19:42 PM , Rating: 4
Where's Mr. Fusion when you need him?

RE: catch-22
By rudolphna on 8/13/2008 8:14:54 PM , Rating: 2
maybe if everyone on the planet drives 88mph on this biodiesel...........

RE: catch-22
By wordsworm on 8/17/2008 9:26:13 PM , Rating: 2
I can just see lineups of homeless people and college students giving their feces in exchange for a free cup of coffee.

RE: catch-22
By ira176 on 8/13/2008 11:14:56 PM , Rating: 2
The town I'm from already captures methane from the landfill and uses it to burn solid waste at the sewage treatment plant, and to power parts of the plant.

RE: catch-22
By Googer on 8/13/08, Rating: -1
RE: catch-22
By DFranch on 8/13/2008 3:41:40 PM , Rating: 2
The article said the bacteria was incapable of infecting humans.

RE: catch-22
By CascadingDarkness on 8/14/2008 12:16:27 PM , Rating: 2
I'd be waiting for an economical do-it-yourself home kit. Tank to dump your clippings in, plus a handy little vial of ready bacteria.

An almost free tank of gas would give me more incentive to work harder in the yard.
Just need a diesel car/lawn mower.

RE: catch-22
By HrilL on 8/12/2008 7:35:02 PM , Rating: 2
Did you not read the full article? It clearly states that any carbon based product can be used that’s all plant matter and you could even use dead animals. Do you know how many billions on tunes of stuff we currently bury in the ground that could be used to feed these bacteria?

RE: catch-22
By Hypernova on 8/12/2008 9:13:53 PM , Rating: 2
one word: Soylent Oil!!

RE: catch-22
By Durrr on 8/13/2008 7:28:06 AM , Rating: 1

RE: catch-22
By DJMiggy on 8/13/2008 12:39:30 PM , Rating: 2
What about soylent cowpies?

RE: catch-22
By OxBow on 8/14/2008 3:31:01 PM , Rating: 2
Damn funy

RE: catch-22
By michael2k on 8/12/2008 7:50:05 PM , Rating: 2
I think you meant over-consumption when you wrote over-population.

Over-population doesn't effect Europe, Japan, or the US... even China has a negative birth-rate, which means in 60 years they will be underpopulated.

RE: catch-22
By paydirt on 8/13/2008 11:43:22 AM , Rating: 2
over-population is a valid concern, IMO. If the population was 20% smaller, we'd probably use at least 10% less resources...?

RE: catch-22
By michael2k on 8/13/2008 2:55:23 PM , Rating: 3
That's wishful thinking I think. And the point is still not overpopulation but overconsumption. Our space trivially handles the population (in terms of shelter, food, and power), it is the luxuries (consumption) that is the issue.

Imagine the US. If we had 20% less population, do you really think we would use 10% less resources?

What happens is that people want more things, and the only way we get more things is if we have less children (because we can divert resources away from raising kids and instead into HDTVs, iPods, SUVs, etc). This has been happening EVERYWHERE, from the US, to China, to Japan, and Europe.

So from some perspectives our resource drain stops (we eat less for example, since our population is smaller), we drive more or buy more or do more instead.

RE: catch-22
By Alexstarfire on 8/13/2008 1:06:36 AM , Rating: 2
I do you foresee this being a problem? It doesn't need pure sugar, like corn or sugar cane. It can use things like landscaping waste and wood chips. Both of those are in plentiful supply. Though, we'll probably have to start planting more trees, but we already need to do that. Did you even read the article?

RE: catch-22
By Myg on 8/13/2008 4:39:48 AM , Rating: 2
The whole "Overpopulation" stuff is a bit nonsense; Theres plenty of space for many more humans. Besides: people dont need power to live, and have done so for a very long time without.

The only thing that way of thinking has ever done was make people look down on the "third world" (Usualy having larger families), which has stopped alot of people from actually being charitable towards them.

What we need is more sharing of resources, pretty simple solution; but the hardest to do when all we are taught to do is be greedy.

RE: catch-22
By mindless1 on 8/13/2008 3:05:48 PM , Rating: 2
Overpopulation is a valid concern, because we're not talking about the amount of space to build a house or agricultural land, we're talking about the fuel needs of a certain population density, whether that amount of land can provide enough fuel for their future needs through all resources possible.

It becomes less valid when considering the questionable increases in population, but we can't ignore that the average lifespan is increasing and the 2nd and 3rd worlds are going to be consuming more fuel in the future.

RE: catch-22
By masher2 on 8/13/2008 3:49:23 PM , Rating: 2
> "Overpopulation is a valid concern..."

For the Western World, underpopulation is a far larger concern than overpopulation. Nearly all of Europe is, barring immigration, not even sustaining its own population levels. In fact, at the current rate of progress, Western mankind will be effectively extinct in less than 100 years.

Newsflash: Super Bacteria Wipes Out Continent
By Camikazi on 8/12/2008 5:53:02 PM , Rating: 1
Genetically engineering bacteria just reminds me of all those movies of genetically altered things that end up killing off most of the world =/

RE: Newsflash: Super Bacteria Wipes Out Continent
By Carter642 on 8/12/2008 7:40:10 PM , Rating: 5
Newsflash: People Ignorant of Genetic Engineering Science Shouldn't Make Alarmist Proclamations

Even on the minuscule (We're more likely to be wiped out by a super flu or an asteroid) chance that the bacteria mutated into something harmful you'd have to drink some gasoline to even risk coming into contact and the gasoline would kill you far more quickly.

Besides, first CERN is going to create a black hole and KILL US ALL OMG! PANIC!!!

RE: Newsflash: Super Bacteria Wipes Out Continent
By mindless1 on 8/13/2008 3:15:37 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed, you'd have to be ignorant to think coming into contact with a genetically engineered (anything) would necessarily require drinking gasoline. Does coming into contact with flies require handling a dead animal carcass?

By Carter642 on 8/13/2008 4:15:09 PM , Rating: 2
I meant in the case of this bacteria. Actually the bacteria would likely be removed from the fuel product before shipment and all the apparatus would be sterilized between batches to prevent contamination. As to flies, that's a worthless analogy. E. Coli isn't airborne and I highly doubt that a strain this specialized would be able to survive outside the lab for very long.

I work in genetics and most of the GE bacteria that is used to produce medicine or other chemical products works like this stuff and none of it has escaped and started rampantly infecting the world. We have been using this sort of process for more than 30 years, it's about as safe as any biological process can be.

RE: Newsflash: Super Bacteria Wipes Out Continent
By sc3252 on 8/12/2008 9:35:18 PM , Rating: 2
News flash most E.Coli isn't dangerous, in fact we need it to live. Also those who think it will turn into a super "virus" are ignorant, since anything can turn into a super "virus" so why worry about something as E.coli.

No one should be worried about bacteria that are engineered to do something since most are designed from something harmless. Other then that I wish it was something more environmentally friendly then diesel.

RE: Newsflash: Super Bacteria Wipes Out Continent
By paydirt on 8/13/2008 11:47:34 AM , Rating: 3
OK, what if it doesn't mutate or anything but just gets out in the wild and creates a bunch of diesel all over the place... Welcome to Planet Diesel *cough* *cough* *thud*

By rudolphna on 8/13/2008 8:23:01 PM , Rating: 2
itll be the cuyahoga river all over again, only on a much much larger scale. (for those who dont know, the cuyahoga river in cleveland ohio was once so polluted, that a lit cigarrete set the whole river on fire)

By mindless1 on 8/13/2008 3:22:01 PM , Rating: 2
News Flash - Our environment has somewhat of an equilibrium with all it's naturally occuring elements. When something is engineered to be unique and then introduced to that environment, it can defintely change that environment, both in ways we can and ways we can't so easily forsee.

That anything supposedly could turn into a super virus is a bit irrelevant, or rather an acknowledgement of the very thing you're trying to argue against. Is this E. Coli strain significant? Maybe not but the issues involved with genetically engineering things to effect a substantial change in their behavior will have an impact as that was the whole point and the remaining question is one of whether we can maintain control.

By William Gaatjes on 8/13/2008 5:06:08 AM , Rating: 2
Mutations happen all the time, this is just another mutation in general but provoked by us humans. Besides , 1 of the reasons we live and don't have to worry much about our bodies is because our bodies are covered (internally and externally) with bacteria that actually are a first line of defense against other harmfull bacteria, fungee and even some viruses.
When our immune systems comes to full action(cause it is 24/7 in action to keep the easy burglars out) That line of defense has failed. Just do some research about what is going on in your colon and on your skin. Even in your mouth.

Strictly speaking, we are in a constant war and we have a lot of allies. That's called symbiosis. That war only stops when you are dead. Because then you lose and start to decay and dissolve.

Screw driving less
By phxfreddy on 8/12/2008 11:02:30 PM , Rating: 2
Does anyone think the long term solution includes sliding backwards towards horse and buggy days? I say NO.

Any solution for energy must REDUCE the eventual cost of energy. Not just replace oil.

No one wants to take a pay cut. No one wants to drive less. No one wants to slip backwards in history.

I am tired of the Luddites tossing their shoes in the gears of progress!

RE: Screw driving less
By SiliconAddict on 8/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: Screw driving less
By masher2 on 8/13/2008 12:49:27 AM , Rating: 5
> "If in 100 years we've so thoroughly fucked this planet that 80% of the species on this planet are extinct, and we as a species are slowly dieing...."

Fortunately we utterly lack the power to do that. Not even a full-scale nuclear war would have effects anywhere near that severe. As for pollution and/or climate change causing such effects, the facts do not bear out any such sky-is-falling scenario.

> "Americans aren't willing to give up some of the comforts of our society..."

The striving for the "comforts of society" is what brought cave men out of their flea-bitten caves in the first place. It's the reason most children don't die long before reaching maturity, why adults no longer die from minor infections and toothaches, why malnutrition and starvation no longer run rampant, why we're no longer regularly eaten by wolves and killed by bears, why something as simple as an early frost or a bad crop fungus no longer means the deaths of entire cities.

Always striving to have a better, easier, more comfortable life is what made us great. And the largest danger civilization faces today is from attitudes such as yours, that this very striving is somehow evil and pernicious. That desire -- coupled with our intelligence in implementing it -- is the only thing that separates us from a life that is nasty, brutal, and short.

RE: Screw driving less
By Mathos on 8/13/2008 1:07:33 AM , Rating: 2
Well, look at it this way. How quickly did humanity move through the evolution of transportation motors. How long was it between the time we started using steam engines, and the time we started using internal combustion engines. Now look how long it's taking us to move away from the obsolete internal combustion engine to something more efficient or something that doesn't use fossil fuels at all. The internal combustion engine has been obsolete for over 50 years.

Unfortunately this is what happens when you live in a society that allows it's governing bodies to line their pockets with money from the very companies that are holding us back. So I'm glad to see an independent company trying to solve part of the issue. I get a laugh every time I hear about a company like Exxon investing a few million dollars a year into research of alternative fuels, when they report record quarterly profits of 12 billion Dollars.

RE: Screw driving less
By NEOCortex on 8/13/2008 1:59:05 PM , Rating: 3
ICEs might be inefficient, but they're certainly not obsolete.

RE: Screw driving less
By mindless1 on 8/13/2008 3:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
It's never that simple, whether it be 100 years or 1000 we are still having a negative impact on the planet and the ideas we have about comfort and convenience at any cost will have to change whether it be by choice or necessity.

Of course mankind has made great strides but the goal is not to go back to the caveman era, it's to find a balance and it will necessarily include concepts you've argued against, that we can't reasonably be a throw-away society forever.

RE: Screw driving less
By masher2 on 8/13/2008 3:47:23 PM , Rating: 2
> "we are still having a negative impact on the planet "

Taken from the viewpoint of what's best for mankind, we're having an incredibly positive impact on the planet.

In fact, that explains the (strictly modern) viewpoint that nature is a kind, gentle, nurturing environment. In primitive times, nature was a force to be feared.

RE: Screw driving less
By AnnoyedGrunt on 8/13/2008 12:59:50 AM , Rating: 2
Ahh, but it's never that easy. Cloth diapers require washing, which uses water, which in many areas is more scarce and valuable than landfill space. So you may be making a larger impact with cloth diapers than you initially think.

Also, you get your hands plenty dirty with disposable diapers, let me tell you!


RE: Screw driving less
By mindless1 on 8/13/2008 3:13:12 PM , Rating: 2
It's easier than you think. "Uses" <> "uses up". Water doesn't disappear after used, we've managed to recycle that for quite a while now but do we recycle plastic diapers out of landfills?

RE: Screw driving less
By Jim28 on 8/13/2008 12:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
"Americans aren't willing to give up some of the comforts of our society and it will come back to bite us all in the ass long term"

You don't practice what you preach obviously, since you are sitting at home on a computer typing into this blog.


So what happens when these bacteria get out?
By NARC4457 on 8/12/2008 7:16:41 PM , Rating: 2
So it's a certainty that these bacteria will 'escape' confinement at some point. What would the impact be for a bunch of these guys running around creating diesel in the ground? What is the normal waste from e coli?

I wonder if they would have any reproductive advantage over normal e coli and would somehow take over. Don't really know much about bacteria, so don't know if these questions are even pertinent....

RE: So what happens when these bacteria get out?
By Cullinaire on 8/12/2008 7:50:44 PM , Rating: 3
That's good point. I wonder what kind of conditions are necessary for these bacteria to thrive. After all, multiplying is what they are best at. I would certainly hope they don't cause a grey goo type of disaster if released into the wild.
Although imagine: find a landfill, inject a bit of this into it, and then you can set up an oil well on top of the landfill!

By rudolphna on 8/13/2008 8:27:29 PM , Rating: 2
and the best part- it will already be in a useable form (Gasolone, Diesel, kerosene, jet fuel etc) Direct from teh ground into the pump. =D

By surt on 8/12/2008 8:12:48 PM , Rating: 2
Presumably they have a substantial disadvantage vs normal e-coli, as they have a metabolic output that is high in energy (wasted for the organism).

By PaxtonFettel on 8/13/2008 5:23:24 AM , Rating: 2
Craig Venter has claimed that the synthetic organisms his company are creating for much the same purpose will have a built in 'kill switch'. Most likely this will involve them simply not being viable outside of the production environment. Much the same could be achieved here.

By Smartless on 8/12/2008 5:45:46 PM , Rating: 3
Now if we can just get them off our Green Onions and salsa.

RE: Great
By ImSpartacus on 8/12/2008 5:53:03 PM , Rating: 2
Well at least your salsa will be worth more before the E. coli got into it...

Soylent Black
By BladeVenom on 8/12/2008 7:04:02 PM , Rating: 3
"It's people." We'll soon have bacteria that can convert any carbon source into fuel.

RE: Soylent Black
By JonnyDough on 8/14/2008 2:56:49 AM , Rating: 2
That's great news! My freezer is getting full. Hopefully now I'll finally have an economical way to get rid of all those corpses buried in my basement walls. I wasn't sure what I was going to do next. It sounds like I'll have plenty of room to harvest more friends in the near future. Gotta love science!

Oops, umm. I was just kidding. Happy early Halloween? Anyone? No? Hmm. Candy then? Anyone? If you get in my van you can have all the candy you want.

By danrien on 8/12/2008 6:05:43 PM , Rating: 2
Given the context of the paragraph, I think this sentence may be a little different from what you intended:

While they hope to be entering commercial level production in the next couple years, they acknowledge that even if they continue their path of unlikely and rapid success, their technology is a magical solution to the global energy crisis.

RE: Mistake?
By akugami on 8/12/2008 9:13:48 PM , Rating: 2
It should probably read as "their technology is NOT a magical solution to the global energy crisis." The other glaring mistake is the following.

LS9 is not only confident they can scale the technology, but they also believe that their oil will be significant to the oil found in fossil fuel deposits. Typical oil deposits contain significant amounts of sulfur that get released into the atmosphere, creating acid rain which destroys forests, limestone, marble, and damages lake ecosystems. It also contains benzene, a carcinogen that can cause cancer even in very small quantities.

It should probably read as "but they also believe that their oil will be SUPERIOR to the oil found in fossil fuel deposits."

By happyleotard on 8/12/2008 9:18:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'll be able to refill my car after eating at the Sizzler.

RE: Nice
By Cullinaire on 8/13/2008 4:06:06 AM , Rating: 2
Jack in the Box is also participating, for a limited time only.

what if...
By MDme on 8/12/2008 7:01:26 PM , Rating: 2
these bacteria mutate (as they often do) or acquire plasmids (from other bacteria like e.coli) and gain the ability to infect humans. This could be disastrous. Imagine, e. coli in your body converting your glucose HYDROCARBONS and toxic substances like diesel/gas?

RE: what if...
By masher2 on 8/12/2008 8:25:53 PM , Rating: 1
There are already tens of millions of bacteria that generate toxic substances -- many of them far more deadly than diesel or gasoline. Even in the one-in-a-quadrillion chance of this occurring, I wouldn't be too concerned about the consequences.

Friendly E Coli
By 67STANG on 8/12/2008 6:00:07 PM , Rating: 2
Quite frankly, I think this is a marvelous alternative to the world's fuel needs. Definately better than more drilling and probably much cheaper... If this could be used to ease the demand on drilled crude, prices would drop and world-wide supplies could be lengthened to beyond 2050 quite easily.

Considering the cost per day of rent on a single oil rig (~$40k), a massive-scale production facility would be a bargain-- assuming this process could be adapted to such a large scale. I think we can all agree that this can at least serve the benefit of stomping out this ridiculous ethanol craze since it is claimed to have the same energetic content as traditional petroleum products and is compatible with all existing automobiles..

Does anyone know when LS9 will have an IPO?

By Souka on 8/12/2008 7:00:21 PM , Rating: 2
E. Coli is already used to produce other liquids.

Insulin if I recall is now made from an E. Coli being spliced with an insulin gene...

move along...
By codeThug on 8/12/2008 9:19:59 PM , Rating: 2
This is nothing new in a sense.

Various forms of fungus have been ingesting sugar and water whilst pissing ethanol for years.


You can drink ethanol, you can't drink diesel.

I Nominate This Story...
By AstroCreep on 8/12/2008 11:32:25 PM , Rating: 2
...for best use of the word "Poop" in a semi-serious news article for 2008.

I wonder?
By Mathos on 8/13/2008 12:51:15 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if they could modify the bacteria to the point where they could eat household trash, to produce Oil products? Gotta figure any waste fruit parts, especially the skins on banana's and oranges are going to have a lot of sugar in them. Not to mention most non plastics are going to be made from plant matter, like cardboard and such. Possibly could also be a way to finally recycle all that old foam garbage to something useful too.

More useful for plastics?
By PaxtonFettel on 8/13/2008 5:29:27 AM , Rating: 2
It is likely that at some point, we are going to have to change to a hydrogen or electricity economy for most of the functions the hydrocarbon economy supports now. So these two energy sources are arguably more important than finding alternative sources of combustible hydrocarbons. But if we cease to produce hydrocarbons, where do our plastics (which we love so much) come from? Well, I think this is the perfect solution.

By greyammit on 8/13/2008 10:39:24 AM , Rating: 2
I think those products may have had a longer development cycle than you are aware of.

Just a thought..
By h04x on 8/15/2008 1:43:42 AM , Rating: 2
Now all they need to do is engineer an autotrophic photosynthetic microbe that secretes sugars to feed the E.coli strain producing the hydrocarbons.

The potential for such a system would be good, as the primary drivers for photosynthesis are sunlight (we have a 174 petawatt power supply that rises in the east every morning..) CO2, and water. I don't know enough about it to get down to specifics, but the carbon offset from CO2 consumption by the photosynthetic microbes would help to reduce the footprint caused by the fuel burn. Think of it as a slightly twisted form of solar energy.

By JonnyDough on 8/14/2008 2:51:28 AM , Rating: 1
This sounds like a bunch of shit. Err, diesel.

By ZoZo on 8/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: Environmentalism
By MamiyaOtaru on 8/13/2008 3:12:34 AM , Rating: 2
Tree hugger. Of course it would. Currently we are removing carbon from deep underground and adding that to the biosphere. This would take carbon already in the biosphere and .. release it right back into the biosphere. It won't be making more. It won't be adding a lot of the other stuff that comes up with natural fossil fuels (see the bit in the article about their result being cleaner than what comes out of wells). This would really be pretty nice.

Not that it will ever scale up enough to meet current consumption. That will obviously have to drop, which should make you happy.

RE: Environmentalism
By OxBow on 8/14/2008 3:39:24 PM , Rating: 1
I like to think of myself as an environmentalist (hell, my degree is from the OSU School of Natural Resources) but it's pretty obvious that we'll be needing deisel fuel for many decades to come.

There's no way around the fact we'll need deisel to power our trains, tractors, semi-trucks and heavy equipment for a long time. We should conserve more gas so that the price of deisel can be affordable enough for us to be able to buy the food that's brought to us on the back of... deisel.

I don't see why this tech wouldn't be scalable. I can think of a prime location in our county here south of Houston that would be perfect for a trial of this. Close to several sources of degradable hydrocarbons (landfill and sewer plants) as well as easily tied into the distribution grid (pipelines) and technicians that are eager to work on new biofuels. There are more chemists around here than you can shake a stick at.

It would be interesting to see what the large scale waste byproducts are. Beyond the idea that it could shrink our landfills and cut down on the solid organic waste disposal, there's a good chance the the by products these things dump out would be usefull for other stuff.

LS9? GM will sue...
By wingless on 8/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By masher2 on 8/12/2008 9:45:49 PM , Rating: 5
> "Also, finding ways to make more hydrocarbon gas doesn't help a damn thing"

You don't think stopping the flow of trillions of dollars overseas, much of it to unstable, dictatorial regimes is a "good thing"?

> "It's just the same old POLLUTION "

The average car of today puts out about 1/1000 the particulate pollution and 1/100 the the VOCs and NOx as a car from 40 years ago. Extrapolating forward, it doesn't seem that pollution is going to be much of a problem in the future.

> "Our civilization needs to stop burning hydrocarbons because thats the MAIN problem. "

Worse than war, starvation, AIDs, and cancer? Actually, burning hydrocarbons has led to the greatest advances in human health and standard of living mankind has ever seen. It's important to not forget that.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By Myg on 8/13/08, Rating: -1
RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By robinthakur on 8/13/2008 7:19:11 AM , Rating: 2
AIDS - Plastics for condoms, which makes it too easy to perpetuate the idea of sexual irresponsibility; Thus leading to AIDS getting to where it is today (more people would of been saved by a solid " not without a ring " comment then thinking that a peice of plastic for the profit of a company will save them; not to mention, more responsible ways of thinking combined with active detection stem the spread by keeping it within a small group, who would die without spreading it)

This is really stupid thinking. Condoms have saved ALOT of lives. How likely do you think it is to ban extra-marital or pre-marital sex? Kinda tricky me thinks, not to mention unrealistic. What about people who have no intention/are not legally able to get married? Should they just lead a life of permanent abstinence? I think "Be monogomous" would be a much better slogan.

Condoms are much more likely to work against the disease because we're not trying to impose or change a particular morality on the way people live their lives, we are just educating them that if you want to live a high risk lifestyle where you have sex with multiple partners then condoms make it more safe, though not entirely safe. If you want to live a life of sexual irresponsibility, you can do so whilst using condoms and you'll live a long life barring any unforseen accidents. Its purely your moral judgement that that's wrong. You might want to tell other hypocrites like Senator Edwards that also...and also remove all sexual references throughout worldwide pop-culture.

The 'not without a ring' comment is irrelevant to 90+% of people out there and would have had absolutely no impact on the spread of the disease. Air travel does have an effect on the spread of the disease however.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By Myg on 8/13/2008 1:54:48 PM , Rating: 2
So... teaching people to have sex stems the flow of AIDS?

Dont get that logic

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By nafhan on 8/13/2008 8:17:41 AM , Rating: 2
There were problems with STD's before plastics were invented.
Here's a link to the large European syphilis outbreak in the 1400's:

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By Myg on 8/13/2008 1:55:40 PM , Rating: 2
Of course there was always a problem, but there was always a solution too, and ignoring it isnt going to help.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By Targon on 8/13/2008 8:44:12 AM , Rating: 2
There are many people out there that take this sort of attitude, including the RIAA. You MUST stop the advancement of technology, just because change is a bad thing and people may use it for illegal/immoral purposes.

The idea that just because something can be used for illegal purposes does not mean that something WILL be used in that way. This is why guns, VCRs/DVRs, CD/DVD recorders, and so on are legal. Trying to say that by adding a new "cheap" way to provide an alternative to current supplies of fuel that it will lead to all sorts of negative things is wrong on many levels.

Every human on the planet has the potential for violent behavior, but that does not mean that every person will act in a violent manner. Just because the potential is there does not mean that it will happen.

If you look at the world, much of the fighting has been over "energy", and the desire to have an unlimited supply. This is why the places with an oil supply are so important to so many people. What happens if these oil supplies are no longer the only source of oil then? What if every country will be able to supply it's own oil? Wouldn't that mean that the need to even deal with the middle east would fade, eliminating the need for war due to oil in that part of the world?

For your other points, I don't fully understand your points. When it comes to AIDS, the problem is a bit more about sociology than about products made by oil. Before the birth control pill, pre-marital sex often lead to unwanted pregnancy. When birth control pills became available, this lead to the whole "free sex" craze of the late 1960s into early 1970s because sexually transmitted diseases just were not in the minds of people. Even then, it took until the late 1970s into the 1980s before sexually transmitted diseases were even thought about by young people. AIDS was the first disease to really scare people enough to change their behavior, so the use of the condom became a lot more popular. And even though things changed here in the USA, in third world countries where birth control is/was not easily accessable, the use of these things has been very low, leading to the AIDS problem being not just a concern, but a true epidemic. It has nothing to do with oil in that case, but about a sociological issue even when birth control is widely available.

Energy by itself is not an "evil" that causes problems, but when supplies are limited, it becomes something that people want, and because others know that it will be in demand may try to control the supply. By removing the limits on energy availability, it reduces one item that others may be envious of. If you are looking for a reason why energy causes fighting, you should look at the root issue, envy. Make something available to everyone in the world at an affordable price(to those who want it), and that eliminates one potential source of violence.

So, you are looking for trouble in the wrong place. At the heart of any problem, you will find that envy is the source of most problems, and this can lead to hostility.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By Myg on 8/13/2008 1:59:36 PM , Rating: 2
Was mainly a response to mashers comments of the following:

"Actually, burning hydrocarbons has led to the greatest advances in human health and standard of living mankind has ever seen. It's important to not forget that. "

But yes Targon, your right; it is more of a social issue then a petrolium one. I was hoping to expose a little insight into the side effects of this new fangled "standard of living" he was talking about.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By sgw2n5 on 8/12/2008 11:59:28 PM , Rating: 2
You do of course realize that all of that yard waste, agricultural waste, and other carbon/sugar rich materials will eventually decay back into CO2 anyway whether utilized as an energy source or not don't you?

Every mol of CO2 released into the atmosphere by combustion the diesel produced by the E. coli, a mol of CO2 was taken up and converted by plants into sugars, and the sugars were converted into hydrocarbons, then back to CO2 --> then the process starts over again when you burn it.

This is a far better solution than drilling for oil and then burning it (releasing CO2 into the atmosphere that had been previously locked into the ground). At least the CO2 emitted from this stuff came from the atmosphere relatively recently.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By wingless on 8/13/08, Rating: 0
RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By masher2 on 8/13/2008 12:38:04 AM , Rating: 5
> "A continuation of the accelerated CO2 emissions our civilization has produced "

You're still missing the point. This process is CO2 neutral; there is no "accelerated CO2 emissions". Whether a leaf decays naturally, or whether it is converted into diesel and then burnt, the emissions are unchanged.

> "Because we think like you, we doom ourselves"

Utterly untrue. From a geologic perspective, our atmosphere is currently CO2 impoverished. Throughout most of the Earth's history, levels were much higher, as much as 20 times higher than they are today. In fact, during the Cryogenian Period, CO2 levels were over 4000 ppm (they stand at 380 ppm today), yet the Earth was the coldest its been in all recorded history, with glaciers covering nearly the entire planet.

Every new report from the UN's IPCC scales down climate sensitivity to CO2 still further, and the most recent research indicates that the sensitivity is so low as to make any amount of warming essentially insignificant, if not even beneficial to mankind.

CO2 is airborne plant food, esential for all life on the planet. Even at the level we currently burn fossil fuels, nature still releases 30 times as much each year as we do. Commercial greenhouses artificially raise CO2 levels to increase plant growth...and research shows that increased CO2 in the atmosphere is already boosting plant growth, a fact which is not only good for both agriculture and the biosphere in general, but which acts as a negative feedback to eventually halt further CO2 increases.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By William Gaatjes on 8/13/2008 4:25:32 AM , Rating: 2
I have a question,

What will the rise of CO2 levels in the air do for the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth surface and the frequentiespectrum of that sunlight. It looks like massive amounts of CO2 in the air is good but as always the old saying goes :
Too much of anything is not good for you.

Yes, there where iceages before we got industrialized. That just shows there are more ways to Rome.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By ceefka on 8/13/2008 8:02:13 AM , Rating: 2
It sounds like you are referring to global dimming. That is caused by particles, not CO2, in the atmosphere creating a sort of shade though it is related to combustion of fuels.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By William Gaatjes on 8/13/2008 8:54:34 AM , Rating: 2
Well, i was thinking of particles. Energized ones to be exact. I wonder how high the CO2 comes and the upper layers respond to that. Does the CO2 get high enough and can it be energized and cause certain reactions ?
I am just interested, i don't really know much about it.

I am thinking of the troposhere, stratospere and higher.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By Solandri on 8/13/2008 1:19:42 AM , Rating: 5
Also, finding ways to make more hydrocarbon gas doesn't help a damn thing. It's just the same old POLLUTION we're dealing with now. Now if they can make E.Coli eat garbage and output pure hydrogen then we have something. That's impossible since this biotech is simply converting chains of carbon into different types. Maybe they can get it to poop plastic. Plastic is where a lot of our beloved oil goes and its handy as hell.

Our civilization needs to stop burning hydrocarbons because thats the MAIN problem.

Wow. Just... wow.

First, all of life depends on burning hydrocarbons. Your body takes sugars (which are hydrocrabons) that you eat, combines them with oxygen that you breathe, to "burn" the hydrogen off the hydrocarbons yielding (for the most part) water, CO2, and energy.

The wood you burn in the fireplace goes through the same process. Wood (cellulose) is basically just long chains of sugar glued together. When you burn it, it combines with oxygen in the air to yield (for the most part) water, CO2, and energy. There's a bit more other stuff created because the reaction is uncontrolled and at a higher temperature. And yes, wood is just sugar. The only reason you can't eat it is because your body can't break apart the long cellulose chains. Herbivores and termites have bacteria in their gut who break the cellulose into shorter sugars, which they can then digest.

Anyhow, if you process the cellulose, you get hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Those fuels are packed full of energy because they originated as sugars in the form of cellulose. One way to process it is through temperature and pressure which makes the oil we find underground. The bacteria these guys have come up with are another way.

There is nothing wrong with burning hydrocarbons if they're created in a sustainable manner. The entirety of life on this planet depends on that very process. Hydrocarbons are just a chemical battery (a very efficient one at that) which plants use to store the energy they collect from sunlight. Pure hydrogen is a very difficult substance to work with. It's gaseous at room temperature and pressure, meaning it's very sparse - so it's difficult to get a lot of energy into a small space using it. It's a very small molecule so it leaks through lots of things that are otherwise airtight and watertight. And it rises in the air so any you lose through leakage is gone forever (it eventually escapes into space).

Life on earth has gotten around these problems by combining hydrogen with other elements which make it denser and more manageable, primarily sugars. Hydrocarbon fuels such as methane, gasoline, diesel, etc. are really not much different.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By William Gaatjes on 8/13/2008 4:42:45 AM , Rating: 2
More questions :

Why is hydrogen so popular in nature ?

If i google a little i find this :
It is abundant, but has it not something to do with the reactivity of the protium version ? It is very easy to use the energy from hydrogen. Carbon bonds are very durable and maybe even be the toughest element of all because of the configuration of the electrons in the orbitals.
Combined we have 1 very reactive element with 1 very stable element that can be switched on and off if you know how.
Life is fun :)

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By Tech Go Green on 8/14/2008 4:22:37 AM , Rating: 2
You seem to be aware of the molecular implications... I have an issue to discuss with you.

I'm trying to conceptualize exactly how LS9 is managing to turn cellulose into diesel fuel. From what I found on their official site:

LS9 has developed a new means of efficiently converting fatty acid intermediates into petroleum replacement products via fermentation of renewable sugars. LS9 has also discovered and engineered a new class of enzymes and their associated genes to efficiently convert fatty acids into hydrocarbons.

Also from the website:

Starting from raw, natural sources of sugar such as sugar cane and cellulosic biomass , these renewable fuels will fundamentally change the biofuels landscape and set the stage for widespread product adoption and petroleum displacement.

There seems to be a discrepancy as far as the actual source of the fuel/hydrocarbon. Aren't fatty acids vastly vastly different from sugars? There seems to be fermentation involved... so they are converting some type of alcohol into a fatty acid intermediate? And then breaking that down? Sounds crazy. Cellulose as the starting material surprises me. It's a polysaccharide chock full of oxygen molecules -- even HELD TOGETHER by oxygen -- how in the world are they ending up with fatty acids and their long hydrocarbon chains???

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By William Gaatjes on 8/14/2008 6:17:42 AM , Rating: 2
I am sure you where not asking me but i was interested in the answer to your question as well and thought i might as well post it. I am not a chemist, but when i google on fatty acids i found a lot of websites.

Now you have to verify this yourself but you can find some information from this selection.
I qoute:

Fatty acids are merely carboxylic acids with long hydrocarbon chains. The hydrocarbon chain length may vary from 10-30 carbons (most usual is 12-18).

I qoute :

Saturated fatty acids do not contain any double bonds or other functional groups along the chain. The term "saturated" refers to hydrogen, in that all carbons (apart from the carboxylic acid [-COOH] group) contain as many hydrogens as possible. In other words, the omega (?) end contains 3 hydrogens (CH3-), and each carbon within the chain contains 2 hydrogen atoms.

I woud say the hydrocarbons are stripped by some enzymes.
And next other enzymes build these hydrocarbons to the chemical shape we need. Just like a manufacturer process.

RE: LS9? GM will sue...
By William Gaatjes on 8/14/2008 6:22:39 AM , Rating: 2
And i found this...

I quote:

Novel fatty acids sugar esters for food and cosmetics Objectives Within the EC AIR research project AIR-CT94-2291 Production of sugar fatty acid esters from renewable agricultural resources: an integrated optimisation of enzymatic-purification processes and of surfactive properties, INPL developed an efficient enzymatic process for the synthesis of novel sugar esters based on the use of lipases. The carbohydrate surfactants, made of a hydrophilic sugar head group and a lipophilic fatty acid chain, constitute a novel family of non-ionic surfactants that can be used as detergents for washing purposes, as emulsifiers in food products and as active ingredients in personal care products such as shampoos, creams or soaps. Compared to chemically produced surfactants, enzymatically synthesised sugar esters show superiority in terms of product quality and purity, environmental compatibility and toxicological acceptability. Technical Approach The demonstration project aims at scaling up the enzymatic process for the production of the fatty acids sugar esters and to evaluate functional properties of the surfactants as food and cosmetic ingredients. First, the technical viability of the process based on the use of an immobilised lipase will be verified on sugar esters made from different sugars and fatty acids. Second, the physico-chemical and industrial properties of the sugar esters are to be evaluated in three selected application areas: cosmetics, bakery and ice cream. A major objective is to determine how these sugar esters compare with chemically synthesised surfactants, either alone or in combination. The production costs must also be established to further assess their market potential. Expected Results The production of kilogram quantities of sugar esters. In order to cover a wide range of HLB values (hydrophilic-lipophilic balance) of industrial interest, sugar esters will be produced, made from different sugars, fatty acids and vegetable oils. The evaluation of the physico-chemical characteristic, the biodegradability and the ecotoxicological properties of the sugar esters. The cost analysis of the new products as a function of composition and purity. The evaluation of the industrial properties of the sugar esters. It will first involve a general screening of the sugar esters as cosmetic, bakery and ice cream ingredients. For the most interesting of them, more extended evaluation of properties will be performed, using pilot plant production facilities and standard test procedures.

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