From: The Times Online – Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol
â€œTen years ago I could never have imagined Iâ€™d be doing this,â€ says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. â€œI mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to â€“ especially the ones coming out of business school â€“ this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.â€
He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs â€“ very, very small ones â€“ so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.
Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls â€œrenewable petroleumâ€. After that, he grins, â€œitâ€™s a brave new worldâ€.
Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (Â£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. â€œAll of us here â€“ everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,â€ Mr Pal says.