Oil: The Energy of the Future

By Joe Patten

Three years ago, two prominent scientists asked themselves which natural chemical makes the most efficient fuel. Their answer? Oil.

Using synthetic biology, LS9, Inc. has modified bacteria to turn plant sugars into crude oil. This oil can be refined by existing refineries, distributed by pipeline and pumped into cars. The company is further fine-tuning its bacteria to produce pump-ready gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Because these bacteria can turn any plant waste into crude oil, LS9’s bio oil is fully renewable and need not strain the food supply. Synthetic production also allows LS9 to engineer oil with fewer pollutants than drilled crude.

Bio oil is not a dream of the future; LS9 plans to enter commercial production by 2011. Maybe this budding technology will adapt to mass production or maybe not; but as gas prices climb daily, do not panic. The market is working. LS9 and other privately funded companies are scrambling to meet the demand for cheap, clean, renewable energy.

Joe Patten is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market research center.