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Researchers Find Wood-Digesting Enzyme In Bacteria

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the as-long-as-it-doesn't-like-cosmoline dept.

Biotech 86

AffidavitDonda writes with news that University of Warwick and University of British Columbia researchers have "identified the gene for breaking down lignin in a soil-living bacterium called Rhodococcus jostii. Although such enzymes have been found before in fungi, this is the first time that they have been identified in bacteria. The bacterium's genome has already been sequenced which means that it could be modified more easily to produce large amounts of the required enzyme. In addition, bacteria are quick and easy to grow, so this research raises the prospect of producing enzymes which can break down lignin on an industrial scale. By making woody plants and the inedible by-products of crops economically viable the eventual hope is to be able to produce biofuels that don't compete with food production."

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Given that I live in Finland (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413090)

I should probably start buying up some forest just about now...

Re:Given that I live in Finland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413174)

Yes, as if deforesting for hard wood products wasn't enough, now we can do it on an industrial scale to make biofuels.

Re:Given that I live in Finland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413320)

This.

Not only are we going to further deforest the planet so that we can continue to burn molecules of energy rather than consume their atomic energy (fuel cell, nuclear power, etc), we're going to compete with already-strained water supplies to start growing more of it on a massive scale.

Humans are so fucking stupid.

Re:Given that I live in Finland (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413340)

Fuel cells are not nuclear. Though they would require production of the hydrogen, which may well be done using electricity from nuclear.

I'm not as drunk as you thinkle peep I am. hic: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414642)

This either has to be a troll or you're getting started kinda early on the tequila bottle.

It's hard to deforest an area by growing so many trees that you use up too much water.

Re:Given that I live in Finland (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415866)

Do you know how quick and easy to grow softwood forests are? There's a few hundred acres that I planted when I was at school that are just about ready to harvest; longest payoff for a summer job *ever*.

Re:Given that I live in Finland (1)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 3 years ago | (#36417414)

Yes, as if deforesting for hard wood products wasn't enough, now we can do it on an industrial scale to make biofuels.

Yeah, they are going to chop down trees just for that, instead of using the left over wood that comes from producing lumber.

dandelions? (1)

pikine (771084) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413102)

Since dandelions grow everywhere, it would be nice if they figure out how to make biofuel out of dandelions (and other weeds).

Re:dandelions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413190)

Burn them up, and use the fumes to rotate a turbine, generate electricity, combine carbon with hydrogen to make ethyl alcohol, sell the wine and electricity, profit.

Re:dandelions? (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414998)

It's much easier than that, and that is why this is huge news.

Let this bacteria eat the lignin, and then the carbohydrates are exposed. Toss in some yeast and you get alcohol. From wood. Or dandelions. Or grass clippings. Or any cellulose at all.

This could be the end of dependency on oil.

Re:dandelions? (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415794)

This could be the end of dependency on oil.

Sure, any day now, I'm sure it will be a commercial product, like all the other wonderful biofuel, battery, solar and other technologies being trumpeted daily all over the place. There's always a gotcha, like, "It doesn't work." Or, "It costs 3 times as much as anything else."

Re:dandelions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413266)

If you tried to grow a monoculture of dandelions, you would get weeds. As in different weeds.

Re:dandelions? (4, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413598)

Dandelions aren't supposed to be weeds; they were brought to the New World by European colonists on purpose, as a food crop. Every part of a dandelion is edible.

Re:dandelions? (2)

Hopium (1785990) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413694)

and delicious as well, some dandelion soup on cool night by a fire. mmmmmmmmmmm

Re:dandelions? (1)

CorvisRex (1266594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414920)

If a bit on the bitter side, Add a little sweet onions to it, and dandelion greens are bloody good!

Re:dandelions? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414232)

Monsanto selling roundup ready dandelions is just plain scary.

Not just dandelions: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414670)

Perfect way to grow more prairie. Just make all the prairie plants genetically resistant to herbicides.

Re:dandelions? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415894)

Ever seen a rabbit eat a dandelion? Pretty funny, they're like a saw mill working a tree limb.

Re:dandelions? (2)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 3 years ago | (#36416352)

Even that fluffy shit on the top? I tried it as a kid, and NO, Not edible. Bullshit.

Re:dandelions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36417510)

You're supposed to cook it.

Re:dandelions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36418272)

It -was- edible (and tasty) back before it turned white and fluffy.
Are oranges inedible because they eventually turn into a nasty green fuzzy ball?

Re:dandelions? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414534)

Fuel is great but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413118)

... how much longer until I can get a biological upgrade and just digest wood?

Re:Fuel is great but... (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413252)

... how much longer until I can get a biological upgrade and just digest wood?

You Require More Vespene Gas!

Termites? (4, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413144)

Haven't termite gut bacteria been known to digest wood for years?

Re:Termites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413182)

Yes. A quick literature search shows reviews and articles on lignin degrading bacteria at least as far back as 1955. A quick scan of the abstract for the paper (I can't get at the full text) shows that the researchers summarised their work a slightly different way:

This is the first detailed characterization of a recombinant bacterial lignin peroxidase

Fair enough, characterisation is great and very handy, but it's not the same as discovering the first example of it in a domain. Physorg seem to have crossed wires somewhere.

Re:Termites? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414242)

Yes. A quick literature search shows reviews and articles on lignin degrading bacteria at least as far back as 1955.

I know Slashdot is pretty slow to the game sometimes, but 56 1/2 years has got to be a record.

Re:1955! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414940)

1955!
Did Doc Brown and Marty help?

Re:Termites? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413188)

Haven't termite gut bacteria been known to digest wood for years?

Maybe [nih.gov] . Sort of [annualreviews.org] . Perhaps. I had thought so as well, but a quick Google search indicates that those bugs are not well characterized. Having a single organism with a defined enzyme is obviously an easier system to scale up than the stomach of an insect.

Re:Termites? (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413258)

they were well characterized, in the 1970s when oil embargo caused huge interest in alternate energy including plant matter conversion to biofuel. And no, you don't get a link since most human knowledge is NOT on the internet (try your local University library instead).. Being nearly 50, I'm amazed at the "new discoveries" that are repeats of the same shit, different decade.

Re:Termites? (1)

Zorpheus (857617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413422)

Like this [asm.org] or this [sgmjournals.org] ? Nearly every major historic scientific publication can be found on the internet nowadays. Biology is not my area though, so I will not try to dig deeper in this.

Re:Termites? (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415530)

Nearly every major historic scientific publication can be found on the internet nowadays.

Stop eating my lawn!

Re:Termites? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#36416124)

In "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" Euell Gibbons recounts a Depression era story of eating grass in a lady's front yard.

  She came out to ask what was going on, and he said "Lady, I'm so poor that I have to eat grass."

She said come around back, it is much better there.

Re:Termites? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36418642)

That would be nice if most research were done by schools (that publish in those publications). But it isn't and wasn't. Could be a bad thing, but that's the way it was and is.

Re:Termites? (1)

Zorpheus (857617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36418834)

What do you mean? This sounds interesting. In my area everything seems to be published in these journals, some things from industry only in patents, or it is not published at all. Ok some information could be found in old PhD thesises, which could only be found at the university where they were published. Are there other sources?

Re:Termites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413432)

Wow, you mean in the 70's somebody identified the specific genetic sequence responsible for producing the enzyme? Or do you just mean the bacteria was identified? I'm pretty sure this wasn't done in the 70's, but then again being nearly 50 I guess you'd know better. Or maybe you didn't even read the damn summary.

Re:Termites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36415058)

And no, you don't get a link since most human knowledge is NOT on the internet (try your local University library instead).

[Citation Needed]

Re:Termites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413270)

Haven't termite gut bacteria been known to digest wood for years?

It's just really labor intensive pumping the stomachs of 10 million termites.

Re:Termites? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#36416156)

Haven't termite gut bacteria been known to digest wood for years?

If it takes years, then the wood would clog their gut like a tiny dowel.

Re:Termites? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36414838)

the trouble with that bacteria is that it requires a strange growth environment, one not easily reproducible on an agar plate.

honestly, inability to reproduce growth in isolation has severely limited our ability as biologists to isolate and sequence the greater part of bacteria and fungi. some estimates put our thorough knowledge of bacteria at less than 5% of the species out there. We have barely scratched the surface of genome sequences just due to our limitations in labs.

Dr. Venter did an interesting set of experiments on the Sorceror 2 after he got done with the human genome project... he ran around the world sequencing the DNA in seawater. The interesting part of his experimental setup is that the species DNA doesn't have to be isolated first, his shotgun approach just sequences the DNA "soup" and pieces it back together on a computer later. he found an amazing array of biodiversity, but the limitation of his approach is we aren't exactly sure how many species he actually found because the pieces don't all line up.

but back to the current discovery, this is novel because the enzyme sequence resides on a bacteria that we are familiar with and can easily grow in isolation. this would make it much easier to commercialize the application of this technology via some gene duplication and insertion techniques (much the same way that we make most of our insulin now with bacteria instead of harvesting it from livestock!).

Ruminants. (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413162)

Er... what about natural flora of ruminant alimentary tract? They digest cellulose.

Re:Ruminants. (3, Informative)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413888)

Cellulose != lignin. Lignin is a much nastier polymer to digest.

Re:Ruminants. (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413996)

Yup, I've read the relevant article *after* I posted this crap... *facepalm*

Re:Ruminants. (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414444)

I should echo your reply to another hapless fellow from the other day in which the situation was reversed... but I think just by mentioning it my point is made. :-)

What if this escapes? (1)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413184)

What are the chances of this thing getting out and eating all our forests? A kind of brown, pulpy goo....

Re:What if this escapes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413282)

They have found this encime in bacteria that already live in the wild.

Re:What if this escapes? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413514)

There are lots of organisms that digest wood. That's why dead wood rots and eventually turns into (a component of) soil. Living trees fight off these organisms.

Re:What if this escapes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413546)

Bacteria and fungi have a critical role in the environment as detritivores, or "things which break down all the dead crap and waste everyone else is finished with". If they didn't do that then the nutrients in waste and dead matter wouldn't flow back into nutrient cycles properly and you'd have a one-way pileup of unusable waste and no recycled resources to start new bouts of growth with.

Breaking down lignin, cellulose and other plant materials is part of this. They convert the massive quantities of carbon in very-tough lignin into more labile compounds which they use themselves, which will get excreted as carbon dioxide, digested by something which feeds on the bacteria and then moved further up the food chain, etc. So these things are already out there and eating our forests, and it's a very good thing they are.

(I vaguely remember being told by a lecturer during my degree that if it weren't for detritivores then each year we'd be nine feet deeper in undigested waste, but I'm never sure how serious he was about that.)

New ??? Where did Celullase enzyme come from then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413444)

Cellulase has been identified for many years as an enzyme capable of breaking down Lignin into its comstituent parts (sugars etc). It has been difficult to extract in quantity, however. But it's been on the market for years, though extremely expensive. And was obtained from bacteria grown in large digester tanks similar to the way vitamin C is commercially made.

So what makes this really new?

Insanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413460)

We use petrochemicals to make fertiliser instead of running cars so we're going to turn wood into fuel for cars instead of making fertiliser! What the hell is wrong with these people!!!!

Soil depletion (3, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413530)

So what will be left from crop harvests to fold back into the soil and preserve some bare shred of soil fertility if we even harvest the "inedible by-products"? Why do people overlook soil in the lifecycle? Soil contains chemicals, which plants take up and use to construct themselves; if you remove the entire plant and don't fold something truly equivalent back into the soil, then over time the soil becomes depleted of chemicals needed to sustain the process.

Re:Soil depletion (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413596)

Don't worry we have plenty of oil based fertilizers for that!

Re:Soil depletion (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413652)

For the time being we do. If Peak Oil comes and goes, will we favor making fertilizer, plastics, or fuel with what's left? Where do we make those 'budget cuts'? They're gonna hurt.

(I know, you were being sarcastic.)

Re:Soil depletion (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413724)

Oh, and of course synthetic fertilizers only replace the Big Three chemicals. All the others that a plant might need suffer attrition.

Re:Soil depletion (1)

portforward (313061) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413770)

I've always wondered about this. I garden at home, and in the fall I gather the bags of leaves that neighbors set out to put in my compost pile. Why they would just throw away perfectly good biodegradable material and then turn around and buy bags of gardening soil is beyond me. The symbol of Lebanon is the Cedar tree. Do we associate forests with Lebanon or just a dried-out desert? They lost their soil's fertility and can't get it back.

I think that just about the only "bio" fuel that would work without ruining soil would be algae as we are already putting in too much nitrogen into rivers from farm run off.

Re:Soil depletion (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413846)

Of course if we weren't (ab)using so much synthetic fertilizer - and weren't overpopulating the planet - then perhaps the rivers and lakes wouldn't be so awash in nirtrogen? Just a thought....

Re:Soil depletion (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413868)

Are farmers plowing under corn husks and wheat chaff now? If not, where does this all go? (Pig feed maybe?)

Re:Soil depletion (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413918)

Dunno. I might know if my paternal branch of the family had remained in farming.

Re:Soil depletion (5, Informative)

Troggie87 (1579051) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414958)

I can't speak for the large operations, but on the small (thousand-ish) acre farm where I grew up we baled cornstalks just like hay or straw. The big cornstalk bales are piled off to the side where they are used as animal bedding (either in the feedlot sheds or pushed around in the fields for the roaming herds). It gives the animals a warm comfortable place to sleep, mostly just during the winter. Once it thaws or becomes too messy the shed is cleaned into a manure spreader, and flung onto fields that need it (either visibly or based on a soil analysis). Generally this results in the poo+cornstalks being plowed back in at the start of spring.

I know its not popular on here, but there is a point at which you just have to accept that humans change their environment, and there will be casualties. Rather than wasting a bunch of money fighting and regulating every industry on the planet, its probably more realistic to regulate enough to make the environment safe for people and buy separate reserves to set aside for animal habitat. Its not a solution I like either, but turning back the clock on over a hundred years of industrial progress just isn't going to happen.

Not to mention there is a law of diminishing returns on farm regulation: past a certain point, regulation make small scale farming infeasible. But large scale farms are far and away more likely to use "unfriendly" farming methods, largely because the connection to the land isn't there. If you over regulate (and its already happening) small farmers who are likely to care about the land get bought out by superfarms. Superfarms typically don't care about sustainability or the landscape. Two farms near us recently went under, and when they were purchased all the wooded areas that had been used for grazing were chopped and plowed under. The regulations that were supposed to help protect wildlife ended up doing tremendous harm.

Another example is Monarch Butterflies. Monarchs feed exclusively on milkweed, and the best place to find milkweed as I grew up was on fence lines (typically between cow-pastures). As farms merge and pasture is being plowed in favor of large straight fields that giant farm implements can drive easily, these areas are vanishing (the idea that the price of corn is diving these changes isn't entirely true, the fact is that even if corn was dirt cheap its more cost effective for a large farm to grow it in giant straight fields with giant implements). Not surprisingly, experts are now worried about declining Monarch populations. Food for thought, I hope.

Re:Soil depletion (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415664)

Interesting. Anyone have a spare mod point?

Re:Soil depletion (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36414402)

Um we don't take the whole plant. We take as much of the energy as possible.
For example in biogas production you get gas(mostly the CH4 we want) and the liquid/solid remains wich are then used as fertilizer. A better fertilizer (and less smelly) than the untreated plantsor waste products themself. The problem with lignin is that it contains energy we can not get at in an efficient manner, the right enzymes could change that.
When you burn wood you get out the energy in the form of fire, but you still get ash. That energy comes into the plant mostly from the air+sun+water BTW.

Re:Soil depletion (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414574)

I don't agree that process is sustainable. You think that what's removed is trivial and unimportant to sustainability and long-term - multi-generational - soil fertility, and I disagree; I think it all matters and is non-trivial, which is precisely why ecological processes have evolved the way they have. Also, not to nitpick *too* much but hydrocarbons and 'carbos' aren't actually energy, they're potential energy... which is why we use them as food and fuel to release actual energy.

Re:Soil depletion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36425446)

I won't try to speak for all biofuels, but at least with biogas production, what you want is the methane (hydrogen and carbon). The rest of the stuff, or I should say most of the stuff, remains in the digestate. This IS put back into the soil as it makes for an excellent fertilizer. In fact, it makes for a better one than just putting the regular stuff back. The form you often get it in is more readily absorbed by the plant life and less ends up in lakes, rivers and oceans. As long as you can find enough land to put it on, you should be fine.

Of course, not all digestate is perfect. But then again, there was never an easy place to put human excrement or slaughter house waste, which are the two most problematic substrates.

Re:Soil depletion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36434102)

We don't harvest these crops for nitrogen or sulfur; we harvest them for the hydrocarbons they contain. At the end of this process, we'll therefore have a fraction that's fuel (or plastics) and a fraction that's fertilizer. Return the latter to the fields, add water, CO2 and sun, and your cycle continues. Bonus points if you can do the process on site.

Fission and Fusion are fine (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36413552)

This entire post is a logical paradox! Can we have cheap gasoline now and fire these people? They are clearly mad and technically wrong ... :0)

Why not run cars on burning wood? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36413748)

How about cars that run on wood pellets? That would save the effort of converting wood to oil-based fuel.

Re:Why not run cars on burning wood? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414002)

Wood gasifier cars have been made, in WW2 France at least. They are dirty, dangerous and not very efficient.

Oh joy, more bio fuel. Lets burn things life needs (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414378)

Burning things is bad. No, seriously, we don't have engines that burn clean enough to not produce pollutants.

I'm aware that creating batteries also produces pollutants, but what about aluminum/ceramic super-capacitors? Reusable, Non toxic, recyclable, self preserving (I've trickled slowly increasing amounts of electricity into 25 year old aluminum/ceramic capacitor circuits to bring them back into operation -- the more you use them, the more stable they are). Surely producing and recycling aluminum capacitors has less of a carbon footprint than all engines burning things all over the world.

I'm aware that by manipulating electro magnetism, you can propel vehicles without producing exhaust pollution of any kind... Can we say that about burning fuels (besides expensive to create hydrogen / oxygen mixtures)?

Don't you think it would be better to have non polluting electric vehicles, so that we can "upgrade" the efficiency of energy production facilities and have all the vehicles take advantage of the improvements immediately (instead of having to replace every vehicle)?

Clearly there are viable alternatives to burning things, the search to find more things to burn is sort of ridiculous to me; It's like discovering the wheel, but not using them and instead just trying to breed a better cart dragger and more durable carts.

Don't get me wrong: I realize that any form of energy harvesting will impact the environment in some way, but surely their are better production means than burning things, especially when the burning is simply to heat water... It seems foolish to harvest the biological chemicals of the top-soils that we need for food production, even by burning the stalks instead of the fruits. I realize not everyone can switch to electron powered vehicles immediately, but to me it seems that this very "difficult to upgrade" problem is why we should be trying to get away from fuel burning engines...

Re:Oh joy, more bio fuel. Lets burn things life ne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36414906)

Controlled conversion of biomass might be a better answer than letting some of the wildfires burn.
See the news from Arizona.

Re:Oh joy, more bio fuel. Lets burn things life ne (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414990)

...but what about aluminum/ceramic super-capacitors?

The fundamental nature of the problem can be understood if you go online and look up "horsepower to kilowatt". Then enter in an example of the HP rating of your favorite small car and see what number pops out.

From the kilowatts listed, you can decide your minimal accepted run time in kilowatt hours, convert that to joules, and find out how many 3000 farad ultracaps you might need. The answer is a gawdawful lot.

Problem is, chemical energy is very, very dense.

Worse, suppose we posit a magical supercap that can do all that. Where's all the charge go when your car crashes, would you say? That'll cause a bang....

C//

Re:Oh joy, more bio fuel. Lets burn things life ne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36415290)

Yeah but you can't compare an ICE to an electric drive on a "KW in" basis. The ICE isn't as efficient as an electric drivetrain. Plus what's wrong with changing our lifestyle to suit a different energy source? I don't know, maybe make cities livable? Maybe not own 6 cars and drive 5 hours a day to work?

Re:Oh joy, more bio fuel. Lets burn things life ne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36415922)

Plus what's wrong with changing our lifestyle to suit a different energy source?

Nothing, if you want to do it. Most of us don't want to do it. Go ahead and change your lifestyle and leave the rest of us alone.

Re:Oh joy, more bio fuel. Lets burn things life ne (2)

codepunk (167897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415632)

"I'm aware that by manipulating electro magnetism, you can propel vehicles without producing exhaust pollution of any kind"

Well you had better hurry up and patent that shit because nobody else has been able to do it. Where do you think the electricity comes from that produces said magnetism?

Re:Oh joy, more bio fuel. Lets burn things life ne (2)

introcept (1381101) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415828)

Burning things is bad. No, seriously, we don't have engines that burn clean enough to not produce pollutants.

Uhh, no. This is like saying "chemicals are bad" or "radiation is bad". You need to look at what you're burning. The great thing about bio-mass fuels is the concept of "carbon neutral" combustion. You grow a bunch of plants/trees which take carbon -out- of the atmosphere, turn those plants into fuel and a year or so later release the same amount of carbon back into the atmosphere when you burn the fuel. There is no net increase in CO2 levels which means there is no contribution to the greenhouse effect.

On a macro scale there is little to no pollution, even if there appears to be because "burning things is bad". This is exactly the kind of hippy bullshit that holds back the development truly green technologies

Re:Oh joy, more bio fuel. Lets burn things life ne (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36416206)

Agreed on the approximate CO2 neutrality, which is good, but the particulates (PM2.5s) can be very bad. I'm strongly in favour of adding biomass as (for example) a demand-callable electricity-generation fuel, but we have to pay attention to the PMs which can be hundreds of times higher than natural gas per kWh.

Rgds

Damon

Rhodococcus jostii origins (1)

Guppy (12314) | more than 3 years ago | (#36414386)

Interesting where this bacterium was isolated from:
Rhodococcus jostii sp. nov., isolated from a medieval grave. [nih.gov]

"The taxonomic position of a bacterial strain isolated from the femur of the remains of Jost Lucembursky, margrave in Moravia, Brno (Czech Republic), was investigated by phenotypic, chemotaxonomic and molecular taxonomic methods..."

Corn ethanol doesn't compete with food production (1, Informative)

Theovon (109752) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415214)

Because corn isn't food. Maybe hundreds of years ago when native americans were selectively breeding it. Even then, it was kinda crappy, and they had to supplement it carefully with other things or else they would suffer malnutrition. In the 20th century, we've genetically engineered all the nutrients out or corn, making it mostly a source of lousy sugar. Corn is more useful to make fuel and biodegradable plastic than it is as a food.

Re:Corn ethanol doesn't compete with food producti (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36415754)

Good point. Too many decades of propaganda and processed calories have blinded us to this fact.

Re:Corn ethanol doesn't compete with food producti (2)

Ardeaem (625311) | more than 3 years ago | (#36417404)

Because corn isn't food.

Tell that to all the people in the world [wikipedia.org] to whom it is a staple. When prices go up, people suffer. Just because you don't think corn ethanol should complete with food production doesn't mean it doesn't compete, here in the real world.

What about yeast? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36415510)

Suppose somebody had a candida yeast infection. These mature yeast have a tough, woody outer shell, so I wonder if the bacteria could be modified to be safe for human consumption and be candida yeasts' worst enemy. Just food for thought.

Re:What about yeast? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36416362)

Yeast have a tough outer wall of chitin, not woody lignin. Granted there are almost certainly chitinases out there, but it's probably not the most practical way to do it. Your immune system would react to the bacteria just as violently, and chemical fungicides would probably be cheaper, more reliable and more effective.

Re:What about yeast? (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36416448)

Splice it into lactobacillus and make yoghurt, combining the traditional remedy for thrush with kick-ass new genetically modified tech.

it's GM (1)

scarecrowblash (2258230) | more than 3 years ago | (#36416564)

They might actually use the gene to genetically modify aneoribic bacteria and produce biofuels out of rotting wood which will end up as CO2 in the atmosphere either ways!

fungus digests the wood as an energy source. Wood is made up of cellulose and lignin. Cellulose is a carbohydrate and is completely metabolized by the fungus and breaks down into the carbon dioxide and water. Cellulose ----> carbon dioxide + water

The Road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36434692)

"this research raises the prospect of producing enzymes which can break down lignin on an industrial scale" :

Great, now leak those genetically engineered bacteria into the wild and all our trees will crumble to dust.
Anyone seen 'The Road' lately?

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