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Have you seen this effort to create new petroleum?

I get nervous when we genetically modify...and tend to imagine apocalyptic scenarios where tiny fuel-pooping bugs somehow escape the container and begin drowning all life in sludge. What do you science geeks think about this potential solution?



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
Isn't this essentially the same as the bioremediation Starhawk and Co. have been doing? Granted Starhawk isn't genetically engineering anything, but using the same basic principles, no?

I have mixed feelings about genetic manipulation. I wish we weren't able to do it all, but we can. Since we can, I think applications like this might have some value. One of the issues I see is that if this company, or whomever else, thinks creating petroleum artifially is the answer to the crisis, they're wrong. We need to diversify our energy sources.
Jun. 20th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm...I am not sure. I have always wanted to take the earth activist training that Star offers - but it's too expensive and lengthy for me to manage. I imagine that bioremediation does involve boosting helpful microorganisms which help the soil and/or eat harmful things...but is there waste product from that work like this? Couldn't we get into a situation where this "waste" was difficult to manage (despite our oil lust)?

I do worry about genetic manipulation, and tend towards a belief that nature knows best. At the same time, I see things like stem cell research as promising and I'd love for suffering and disease to be eased a bit by science.

I guess I can't have my cake and eat it too, no?

And yes, I agree - we do need to diversify our energy resources! Sing it out!!!
Jun. 20th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
I was just learning about this and what Starhawk is doing involves helping increase the good bacteria/fungi etc. that are beneficial to soil & plants. It doesn't involve anything more hazardous than adding extra natural 'foods' to compost. It's a far cry from genetically engineering bacteria.
Jun. 20th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
I think this could be part of the solution - as y'all said, energy diversification is really the answer. Hell, diversification in general is the answer. It's basic systems design - redundancy, redundancy, redundancy! I think it's an interesitng concept, though, and maybe more sustainable than a lot of ethanol possibilities, espectially if they can get the tinkering right enough so the product can go straight from the bug's butt to the gas tank, and if they truly are using agricultural by-products that would otherwise be landfilled or composted or burned or something.

I think it would be a better idea to use this sort of thing as a temporary band aid while reducing consumption enough to render it unnecessary.
Jun. 20th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
I agree with what others have said about diversification. This might be one step in that direction. Clearly, we'll never be able to generate enough biomass to make enough fuel to keep up with current petro demands. Remember, it took the earth billions of years to create the fossil fuel reserves we have now; we're not going to duplicate that with some bugs in a jar.

I am not opposed to genetic modification... It occurs naturally, anyway. In some cases, like making crops resistant to pests, it has some scary effects. But to make the entire technology "off-limits" because it has some negative uses seems reactioanry to me.

Jun. 20th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, I don't think its reactionary. We see time and again how fast technology advances are happening and that we don't have the cultural factors in place to deal with it yet. I agree with Jen that I like the idea of genetic manipulation to alleviate diseases and suffering. But aren't we all against genetic manipulation of our food? The issue comes to our ability to restrain ourselves from using a technology for a certain purpose.

Jun. 20th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
This is a very interesting topic to me for many reasons. My ex and I always used to fight about nature and technology. He is in full support of GMO's because he feels that we will one day "need to grow tomatoes on Mars" and does not worry about Global Warming because he feels that humanity will find a technical solution to it before it is too late.

I am still trying to decide where I fall between science and nature. I certainly benefit largely from technology and I know it. Still, I don't want to eat genetically modified foods. I would be tolerant of them being grown if that growth could be controlled and did not spread to neighboring crops, but this hasn't always been well handled and many natural farmers have suffered for it. I also believe that I should get to choose whether or not I want to be a guinea pig for GMOs - so food products with GMOs need to be labeled.

I do not find technology in and of itself to be a bad thing. Humankind's arrogance in wielding it with god-like separation from nature pisses me off royally however and perhaps that pushes me to more of an extreme stance. It also bothers me that those of us that want to "opt out" of some technological advances aren't really able to do so given the structures in our culture.

I want choice...and often I don't get it and that makes me want to swing to an edge and live in a cave wearing a grass suit - I must admit.

Jun. 20th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
I hope we eventually figure out how to use solar power. It seems like we have this source of power that is just there. I think it is smarter to use what is there and not have to worry about consquences of genetic modification or feeding these guys.
Jun. 20th, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
While intriguing, this scares the crap out of me, and violates a couple of my basic ideas about bioengineering (I just made this up, but still...):

1. Thou shalt not work on the assumption that it'll all be ok if you can keep your bioengineering project well-contained. You can't. It'll get out eventually, and we'll all have to deal with the consequences. How will we handle a world when all of our compost may be turned into oil slicks with little or no notice?

2. Thou shalt not trust that thy "non-pathogenic E. coli" will remain safe. Bacteria mutate; it's what they do. Relying on the non-toxicity of an almost-toxic quantity is a really bad idea.

Whatever happened to thermal depolymerization, whereby we were going to use industrial processes to turn our waste into petroleum?

If our ecosystem had evolved a critter that fit into the balance by creating petrol, there might be a permacultural approach to cultivating it; but creating it in a non-ecosystem is likely to go in dangerous directions.

(In other news: hello friend! I was thinking of you at the Grove last week!)
Jun. 20th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
I hear you...these are many of my fears as well. I am glad folks are looking for solutions, because our oil dependence has us well and truly over a barrel (literally), but I don't know that I am behind this one. I would have to read and learn much more, and even then, I don't see a way to foresee all the potentials (good and bad) from something like this.

And hello to you! I've heard briefly from several folks who were at camp, but in no detail. It sounds like you all had a great week. I can't wait to hear more about the work that you shared.

Have a great weekend! - J
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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