BP and Dupont Developing New BioFuel

The next big thing in alternative fuels might be biofuel grown in farmers fields instead of taken from ancient oil reserves. Wired News writes about Biobutonal: The Next Alt Fuel.

BP and Dupont today announced that they will begin selling Biobutanol in the United Kingdom next year. The companies co-developed a fuel that can be combined with gasoline and ethanol. Biobutanol is superior to ethanol because it has a higher energy value and is less water soluble and evaporative than ethanol, so it is safe to transport via existing gasoline pipelines.

The other day I went kayaking with a masters student that works out at the research station near my house in Lethbridge. He works with a gene gun doing experiments on more efficient means to create genetically modified foods.

We were talking about the possibilities for biofuels to take over as the leading alternative fuel source, and, he added, there is a strong possibility that once it’s in use, researchers could genetically modify corn so that it yields higher and higher amounts of usable energy. Genetically engineering crops for food consumption entails a lot of government restrictions to make sure that new plants are safe to eat but given that these fuel based crops won’t be showing up on our dinner tables ever, the time it takes to produce such plants would be greatly reduced.

On the topic of genetically modified foods, he talked about how scientists have come along way in understanding how genes can be turned on and off under certain conditions. He also told me that there are certain genes that when a chemical is added to the plants can react with the plant creating interesting results. One idea was a kind of corn that when it needs watering, will activates a glow gene—the same gene we see in fireflies—so that a farmer could theoretically look out at his field at night and if it shines, he knows he needs to water.

I think it’s safe to say, nothing would turn people off genetically modified foods more than this particular modification. Still it’s a pretty neat idea.

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