Americans burn through 140 billion gallons of gasoline a year. And even if drivers switch to more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, the nation’s fuel needs are expected to increase by a fifth over the next 20 years, thanks to dramatic increases in car and airplane use. Which is why, in addition to developing solar, wind and geothermal energy, policy makers, including President Barack Obama, are advocating biofuels to transform the transportation culture.
They’re not talking about ethanol from corn, however, which has already proved wasteful and environmentally damaging. Instead eyes are on a handful of high-tech labs around the U.S. that are perfecting ways to make the equivalent of gasoline and diesel from the lowest life-forms on the totem pole: yeast, algae and bacteria. The challenge is to make enough of these fuels economically and in a form compatible with today’s vehicles.
This article was originally published with the title The Next Generation of Biofuels.