A step towards creating renewable petroleum

In the vampire vs werewolves sci-fi movie Underworld, vampires have developed the technology to create artificial blood, thus eliminated or minimized their need to go after humans whenever they needed to feed.

Humans and vampires had managed to live in a peaceful co-existence. Or so it appeared.

The same thing could arise once the US has fully developed the technology to create artificial petroleum. Such a technology has now taken root from the study of researchers from the University of Minnesota in the US, led by graduate student Janice Frias whose team has just figured out how to create ketones using bacteria, sunlight and carbon dioxide.

The U of M team is using Synechococcus, a bacterium that fixes carbon dioxide in sunlight and converts CO2 to sugars. Next, they feed the sugars to Shewanella, a bacterium that produces hydrocarbons. This turns CO2, a greenhouse gas produced by combustion of fossil fuel petroleum, into hydrocarbons.

Their study funded by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-energy will appear in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

And even as this news is spread in print and on the Internet, the University of Minnesota is filing patents on the process.

If the study would progress as it is envisioned, perhaps within a decade or two, the US would now have a technology to produce its own petroleum thanks, again, to bacteria, sunlight and CO2.

Perhaps by then, the American thirst for oil would be tamed. This would then minimize the need for their active involvement in the Middle East, assuming by that time that the region’s oil reserves have not yet run dry.

Though I am uncertain how OPEC members would react to such a situation that the US with its artificial petroleum technology would become one of their competitors. I am also uncertain as to whether the US would be willing to share such a technology (wishful thinking, I know) with the rest of the world but since a patent for it has already been filed, then it would become another way for them to maintain their global economic dominance.

Nevertheless, it’s still good news that renewable petroleum is much closer to becoming a reality than fiction. As more sources of alternative energy become available, the more chances we have of saving our plant from destruction while we continue on with our civilization.

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