What if we could get our gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from yeast instead of from oil wells? That's not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, it's already happening on a small scale. And there's a vigorous research effort to ramp this up on a massive scale.
One of the more innovative approaches uses a new technology called "synthetic biology." Jay Keasling is one of the leaders in this hot field.
Millions of acres of marginal farmland in the Midwest — land that isn't in good enough condition to grow crops — could be used to produce liquid fuels made from plant material, according to a study in Nature. And those biofuels could, in theory, provide about 25 percent of the advanced biofuels required by a 2007 federal law.
But there are many ifs and buts about this study — and, in fact, about the future of advanced biofuels.
Tara Schumacher, a Ph.D. grad student in Ken Reardon’s lab, looks through a microscope surrounded by flasks of different algae strains.
Credit Colorado State University
Wind isn’t the only alternative energy industry to get a boost from the Fiscal Cliff deal. Also included is a tax credit for algae growers encouraging biofuel production that could one day power cars and boats.
From Congress to The Colbert Report, people are talking about the Midwestern drought and debating whether it makes sense to convert the country's shrinking corn supplies into ethanol to power our cars.
It's the latest installment of the long-running food vs. fuel battle.