In our current quest to stop giving the kings of Saudi Arabia billions of dollars to build yachts and bombs via our love affair with gasoline, some scientists at a company called LS9 claim to have figured out a way to grow petroleum from bacteria. The exciting prospect could shoot us to energy independence in a matter of years, as LS9 says their tech will be ready for the prime time in just a few years.
How does it work?
The company is employing tools from the field of synthetic biology to modify the genetic pathways that bacteria, plants and animals use to make fatty acids, one of the main ways that organisms store energy. Fatty acids are chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms strung together in a particular arrangement, with a carboxylic acid group made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen attached at one end. Take away the acid, and you're left with a hydrocarbon that can be made into fuel.