Cyanobacteria to The Rescue
Soon we may have the technology to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol using only bacteria and sunlight, thanks to University of Hawai'i scientist Pengcheng "Patrick" Fu.
Fu has engineered a strain of freshwater cyanobacteria to feed on carbon dioxide and emit ethanol as waste in the presence of sunlight, according to an article in the Honolulu Advertiser. Fu says that he is two to three years away from creating a full-scale ethanol plant using these tiny critters. Producing ethanol this way is faster and less costly than producing it using crops, he says. According to the article,
"The benefit over other techniques of producing ethanol is that this is simple and quick—taking days rather than the months required to grow crops that can be converted to ethanol, Fu said.
And he believes it can be done for significantly less than the cost of gasoline and also less than the cost of ethanol produced through conventional methods.
Also, this system is not a net producer of carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide released into the environment when ethanol is burned has been withdrawn from the environment during ethanol production.
To get the carbon dioxide it needs, the system could even pull the gas out of the emissions of power plants or other carbon dioxide producers. That would prevent carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere, where it has been implicated as a major cause of global warming."