Science Promises Cleaner Biofuels; Greens Wary
'Understanding the risks' of genetically engineered microbes is essential, some say
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2009 4:54 PM CST
Sugar cane fields in Piracicaba, Brazil.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The future of alternative energy may lie with genetically engineered microbes that can efficiently convert sugar, or even sewage, into fuel, Yale Environment 360 reports. Small biotechs are using the tools of “synthetic biology” to create organisms that produce a range of carbon fuels without the extra energy expended in refining. One trailblazer claims their biodiesel results in 80% fewer emissions than the conventional variety.

“We can’t afford to say no to this research,” said one watchdog, with a caveat: “We really need to be ramping up our understanding of the risks.” These include the environmental impact of ramping up production of sugarcane, an ideal “feed stock,” and the possibility of the microbes escaping into the wild. Still, one leader in the field said, “we think the future will be very bright.”