Biotechnology for when the oil runs out
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Oil pumpEarth from space

Biotechnology for when the oil runs out

Understanding and assessing biofuels - from every angle.

Oil powers the world’s vehicles and many of its power stations. There is no shortage of possible energy generation systems that have no “addiction” to oil-wind, wave, geothermal, hydroelectric, even nuclear.

But oil is also the source of organic carbon-in hydrocarbons-for the global petrochemical industry. Is there oil for another century or only fifty years? Or less? No one knows - precisely.

Only plant biomass offers organic carbon in the massive amounts required for the modern world. Whether or not that resource can be accessed sustainably and without causing worldwide famine is hotly debated.

Biofuels have been the trailblazers. Brazilian cane sugar ethanol is the “undeveloped” world’s best hope for energy independence in the coming decades. Eventually, hydrogen generated by microbes and photosynthetic algae may be the lasting solution to carbon-less fuels.

Biomass-derived “advanced” biofuels are widely held to be essential if oil shortages are to be avoided. What are they and can they be produced without enormous physical and environmental costs? Can bioenergy crops be grown locally - for national, regional or local use?