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#1
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/a-brave-new-world-of-fossil-fuels-on-demand/article1871149/

edit: also look at the bottom of this post for an update

for those that dont want to open the link or can't
In September, a privately held and highly secretive U.S. biotech company named Joule Unlimited received a patent for “a proprietary organism” – a genetically engineered cyanobacterium that produces liquid hydrocarbons: diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline. This breakthrough technology, the company says, will deliver renewable supplies of liquid fossil fuel almost anywhere on Earth, in essentially unlimited quantity and at an energy-cost equivalent of $30 (U.S.) a barrel of crude oil. It will deliver, the company says, “fossil fuels on demand.”
We’re not talking “biofuels” – not, at any rate, in the usual sense of the word. The Joule technology requires no “feedstock,” no corn, no wood, no garbage, no algae. Aside from hungry, gene-altered micro-organisms, it requires only carbon dioxide and sunshine to manufacture crude. And water: whether fresh, brackish or salt. With these “inputs,” it mimics photosynthesis, the process by which green leaves use solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds. Indeed, the company describes its manufacture of fossil fuels as “artificial photosynthesis.”

Joule says it now has “a library” of fossil-fuel organisms at work in its Massachusetts labs, each engineered to produce a different fuel. It has “proven the process,” has produced ethanol (for example) at a rate equivalent to 10,000 U.S. gallons an acre a year. It anticipates that this yield could hit 25,000 gallons an acre a year when scaled for commercial production, equivalent to roughly 800 barrels of crude an acre a year.

By way of comparison, Cornell University’s David Pimentel, an authority on ethanol, says that one acre of corn produces less than half as much energy, equivalent to only 328 barrels. If a few hundred barrels of crude sounds modest, recall that millions of acres of prime U.S. farmland are now used to make corn ethanol.

Joule says its “solar converter” technology makes the manufacture of liquid fossil fuels 50 times as efficient as conventional biofuel production – and eliminates as much as 90 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. “Requiring only sunlight and waste C0{-2},” it says, “[this] technology can produce virtually unlimited quantities of fossil fuels with zero dependence on raw materials, agricultural land, crops or fresh water. It ends the hazards of oil exploration and oil production. It takes us to the unthinkable: liquid hydrocarbons on demand.”

The company name honours James Prescott Joule, the 19th-century British scientist. Founded only four years ago, it has begun pilot-project production in Leander, Tex. Using modular solar panels (imagine an array of conventional panels in a one-acre field), it says it will quickly ramp up production this year toward small-scale commercial production in 2012.

Joule acknowledges its reluctance to fully explain its “solar converter.” CEO Bill Sims told Biofuels Digest, an online biofuels news service, that secrecy has been essential for competitive reasons. “Some time soon,” he said, “what we are doing will become clear.” Although astonishing in its assertions, Joule gains credibility from its co-founder: George Church, the Harvard Medical School geneticist who helped initiate the Human Genome Project in 1984.

Joule began to generate buzz toward the end of 2010. When U.S. Senator John Kerry toured the company’s labs in October, he called the technology “a potential game-changer.” He noted, ironically, that the company’s science is so advanced that it can’t qualify for federal grants or subsidies: The government’s definition of biofuels requires the use of raw-material feedstock.

In December, the World Technology Network named the company the world’s top corporate player in bio-energy research. Biofuels Digest named it one of the world’s “50 hottest” bio-energy enterprises, moving it ahead 10 places in the past year (from 32nd to 22nd). Selected from 1,000 eligible companies around the world, 37 of the “50 hottest” are American-based – another reason not to count out the U.S. just yet.

Conventional fossil fuels are formed from solar energy, too – in a process that takes zillions of bugs and millions of years. Joule’s technology ostensibly produces the same products in less time. In other energy-producing roles, vast quantities of microbes are already hard at work underground, loosening hard-to-recover crude oil. It could be time for science to bring these bugs up into the light of day.

Editor's Note: The original newspaper version of this article and an earlier online version incorrectly stated that Joule Unlimited owns a patent for producing liquid hydrocarbons from E. coli, rather than from a genetically engineered cyanobacterium. This online version has been corrected.


this sounds so awesome, if its true.

update: http://www.jouleunlimited.com/news/2011/joule-secures-first-multiple-sites-host-solar-fuel-production

they've basically bought some land in New Mexico and from what i understand, they are gonna start trying to actually mass produce fossil fuels (i might not have read that correctly however).
Last edited by ironman1478 at Jul 13, 2011,
#2
We'll see, we'll see.
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#4
Yeah, totally awesome. Let's all continue burning shitty, inefficient oil for the rest of humanity's existence.
#5
A monopoly on a new method of fuel production, eh? And more fossil fuels that pollute the environment? Sweet.
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#6
If works out this is ****ing amazing.
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#8
Quote by rockingamer2
A monopoly on a new method of fuel production, eh? And more fossil fuels that pollute the environment? Sweet.


How is it polluting the environment if it's made from CO2 and water? It doesn't have those other compounds which real fossil fuels have.
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#9
I'm hoping we use this more as a stop gap and as a way to lower the costs of food and goods to potentially get the economy moving again.
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#10
In other words, inevitable let down ahead?
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#11
Quote by Neo Evil11
How is it polluting the environment if it's made from CO2 and water? It doesn't have those other compounds which real fossil fuels have.

Gasoline is just a huge string of hydrocarbons. For all you not chemistry people, that is strings of Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen. IE: All the elements you just mentioned in Carbondioxide and water.
#12
Quote by Neo Evil11
How is it polluting the environment if it's made from CO2 and water? It doesn't have those other compounds which real fossil fuels have.

The purpose of the process is to produce more fossil fuels, which pollute the environment.

Don't get me wrong, this is incredible stuff. I'm just a bit cynical about it.
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#13
This isn't the first time I hear news of "secret private" companies developing potentially ground breaking fuel, but after that one pop up in public, they're never heard from again. I'm not suggesting anything, I just hope this actually catches on.
#14
It reduces 90% of "bad" emissions? Well it's not totally perfect, still cool though.

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#15
And for the people who don't understand why this could potentially save our planet, the organisms would effectively reuse the carbon dioxide produced from burning the fossil fuels they produce, creating a cycle.

I know I'll be let down when this turns out to be a load of rubbish, but this is fantastic.
#16
Quote by Dirge Humani
Gasoline is just a huge string of hydrocarbons. For all you not chemistry people, that is strings of Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen. IE: All the elements you just mentioned in Carbondioxide and water.


For all you people that aren't great at grammar
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#18
Quote by Bonorly
And for the people who don't understand why this could potentially save our planet, the organisms would effectively reuse the carbon dioxide produced from burning the fossil fuels they produce, creating a cycle.

I know I'll be let down when this turns out to be a load of rubbish, but this is fantastic.

not necessarily. it won't use up 100% of the carbon dioxide that we create(at least not it doesnt seem like it will), therefore the amount of CO2 will still increase, just at a slower rate.

as somebody else said, i really hope this just makes gas cheaper and gives us more time to look into and invest more in alternative, cleaner fuels.
#19
I've heard about this. However, I've also heard it's not viable at the current time, because it would cost so much money that they'd never make a profit. If they can make it cheaper, good! If not, well...back to the drawing board, scientists.
#20
But Joule is dead.
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#21
Quote by ironman1478
not necessarily. it won't use up 100% of the carbon dioxide that we create(at least not it doesnt seem like it will), therefore the amount of CO2 will still increase, just at a slower rate.

as somebody else said, i really hope this just makes gas cheaper and gives us more time to look into and invest more in alternative, cleaner fuels.


Yeah, don't get me wrong it is still a far-cry from the zero emission world we ideally want, but still this is as good as it's going to get for a very very long time
#22
Quote by zgr0826
I'm hoping we use this more as a stop gap and as a way to lower the costs of food and goods to potentially get the economy moving again.

as opposed to what?

if this is the method that provides us with a sustainable source of energy then why should it only be used as a stop gap?

That's not to say we should rely solely on this, but it looks like it could be a pretty effective system.
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#23
Quote by Dirge Humani
Gasoline is just a huge string of hydrocarbons. For all you not chemistry people, that is strings of Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen. IE: All the elements you just mentioned in Carbondioxide and water.

I do not get why you made this post? Combustion of fossil fuels produces air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. These pollute the earth. You don't have that with the stuffthey created, so it doesn't pollute the environment.

And I am an earth scientist people, I know what gasoline is.
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#25
ITT: Some people see the words fossil fuel and automatically dislike it. If you read the article and understand it, you'd see this is a good thing, or at least a better thing.
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#26
Quote by Dirge Humani
I am a chemistry people, not a grammar people.

And 'chemically disinclined' sounds just as awkward.


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#27
Quote by rockingamer2
A monopoly on a new method of fuel production, eh? And more fossil fuels that pollute the environment? Sweet.


Pretty sure the article reads:

"eliminates as much as 90 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. “Requiring only sunlight and waste C0{-2},” it says, “[this] technology can produce virtually unlimited quantities of fossil fuels with zero dependence on raw materials, agricultural land, crops or fresh water"
#28
Quote by Lemoninfluence
as opposed to what?

if this is the method that provides us with a sustainable source of energy then why should it only be used as a stop gap?

That's not to say we should rely solely on this, but it looks like it could be a pretty effective system.


I mean that some people will see this as a "gift from God" that gives us carte blanche to not have to worry about developing more responsible forms of energy.
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#29
Quote by rockingamer2
A monopoly on a new method of fuel production, eh? And more fossil fuels that pollute the environment? Sweet.

Fuck the environment. This has the potential to lower gas prices by a nice chunk
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#30
Quote by Neo Evil11
I do not get why you made this post? Combustion of fossil fuels produces air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. These pollute the earth. You don't have that with the stuffthey created, so it doesn't pollute the environment.

And I am an earth scientist people, I know what gasoline is.

If you were a chemistry people, you would know that all the nitrates and sulfates are a result of burning the fuel in open air. You know, the air we breathe, which is 78% nitrogen.

Granted, the sulfates are a result of crap being in the fuel, sure, but we will never be able to burn a fuel 100% cleanly in an open combustion system.
#31
Quote by damian_91
But Joule is dead.


But the joule isn't. You know you've made it when your name starts with a lowercase letter.
#32
Quote by zgr0826
I mean that some people will see this as a "gift from God" that gives us carte blanche to not have to worry about developing more responsible forms of energy.

I don't really see how you can say that when the drive for cleaner, more efficient fuels and methods of producing energy isn't purely driven by the fact that we're running out of fossil fuels.

Those developing wind energy systems aren't going to suddenly stop researching, especially when they seem so convinced they're close to getting it economically viable. Those working on harvesting wave energy etc aren't going to stop.

This just seems to be the ideal form if it works as they hope. It means we don't have to overhaul every method of transport or power production, it means we can develop the improvements in technology naturally.
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Quote by element4433
Yeah. people, like Lemoninfluence, are hypocrites and should have all their opinions invalidated from here on out.
#33
Quote by Dirge Humani
If you were a chemistry people, you would know that all the nitrates and sulfates are a result of burning the fuel in open air. You know, the air we breathe, which is 78% nitrogen.

Granted, the sulfates are a result of crap being in the fuel, sure, but we will never be able to burn a fuel 100% cleanly in an open combustion system.


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#35
I give it a month before no one hears about this anymore.

Either oil companies shut it down, or they spoke too soon and it doesn't work quite right.
#36
Quote by Dirge Humani
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Yeh, i was just continuing it;

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#37
Quote by zgr0826
I mean that some people will see this as a "gift from God" that gives us carte blanche to not have to worry about developing more responsible forms of energy.

Maybe we should start burning anti-nuclear energy hippie as fuel.
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#38
Been wondering when something like this would start to get some publicity. If they do it right, the only bi products should be water, oxygen, and some co2, not to mention the carbon dioxide needed to grow the bacteria. It should be pretty efficient and actually help with carbon sequestration (that's the right word, right?.
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#39
Quote by Dirge Humani
If you were a chemistry people, you would know that all the nitrates and sulfates are a result of burning the fuel in open air. You know, the air we breathe, which is 78% nitrogen.

Granted, the sulfates are a result of crap being in the fuel, sure, but we will never be able to burn a fuel 100% cleanly in an open combustion system.


It seems you are just out on proving me wrong. You quoted me twice with a stupid comment. I just copied those compounds from the wiki because I didn't know the correct english terms. Your comments have added little to this thread. The sulfates and other crap in the fossil fuels are not in these new ones. Therefore it is cleaner. My argument still stands. Bitch.
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Last edited by Neo Evil11 at Jul 13, 2011,
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