The Scientist Still Fighting for the Clean Fuel the World Forgot

Pocket – by James Temple

In the closing weeks of 2008, the US Department of Energy invited politicians and press to a dedication ceremony for the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, California. The state-of-the-art lab, backed by $125 million in federal funding, filled the top floor of a glimmering glass office building that reflected the grand hopes for advanced biofuels.

“It’s bringing together the best people in one location to work on what might be one of the most significant challenges of our time,” said Jay Keasling, a synthetic biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and chief executive of the research institute.

The mission of JBEI (pronounced “jay-bay”) was to produce cheap biofuels from cellulosic sources, meaning the leaves and stems of plants like switchgrass rather than the grains of food crops like corn. The lab aimed to move beyond ethanol, striving to create carbon-neutral fuels that could fill the tanks of standard cars, planes, ships, and trucks. If they succeeded, it promised to dramatically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and US dependence on oil (see “The price of biofuels”).

Read the rest here:

Start the Conversation

Your email address will not be published.