Weekly Blog Roundup

Biofuels & Climate Change

This week in the blogosphere, attention students, according to the blog, smartplanet

“Did you know there’s an ongoing federal grant program for U.S. college and university students that are working on so-called “P3″ ideas? P3 stands for “People, Prosperity and the Planet,” which are concerns fundamental to ideas of sustainability.

“The money is given out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and seeks to help support research and development projects that involve the overall sustainability of human society. The projects must have these mutual goals in mind: economic prosperity, protection of the planet and improved quality of life. There are approximately 40 $10,000 grants given out in Phase I, which is sort of a proof phase. After each of those teams works on their project for eight to a year; the projects are judged and about a half-dozen receive another $75,000 for another two years.””

Then CleanTechies has this to say about innovation,

“In the September issue of Harvard Business Review, authors Ram Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad, and M.R. Rangaswami provide a framework for adopting sustainable practices to bring about technological and organizational innovations that will ultimately yield top-line and bottom-line returns, providing a competitive advantage when the recession ends. They feel that sustainable companies will emerge from the recession ahead of their competitors, who will face difficulties trying to catch up.
The authors argue that sustainability is not the drag on the bottom line that many executives perceive it to be, and that it can actually lower costs, and increase revenues. This is an indicator that business leaders will have to rethink business models, processes, technologies, and products.”

Then, on NanoWerk What does the American public think about nanotechnology and synthetic biology? Well,

“The poll, which was conducted by the same firm that produces the well-known NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls, revealed that the proportion of adults who say they have heard a lot or some about synthetic biology more than doubled in the past year (from 9 percent to 22 percent). Awareness of nanotechnology (30 percent have heard a lot or some) increased slightly since last year, putting it back at the same level measured in 2006. “Public awareness of nanotechnology has barely moved a nanometer in over four years of our project’s polling, despite billions of dollars of investment in research and the existence of over 1,000 nano-enabled products in the marketplace,” said Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for PEN. “Clearly, the message about this new and important technology is not reaching the public.””

Biofuels Digest is writing about algae this week,

““We need real commercial learning to be able to develop the production system and all the systems around that,” said Bill Barclay, chief intellectual property officer at Martek Biosciences, in a report in Sign On San Diego. “We’ve got to be careful not to over-promise success.”
“Filling your vehicle’s tank with fuel made from algae is still as much as a decade away,” led the Reuters report on ABO, “as the emerging industry faces a series of hurdles to find an economical way to make the biofuel commercially.”

The leaders of the industry are concerned about the flip side of the hype cycle – and why not? The daily beatings given to corn ethanol by a witch-burning coalition right out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail should give any renewable energy developer a big case of the willies.

They’re concerned about money, too, or the lack thereof. Biofuels project lenders are generally underwater after loaning up to $1.25 per gallon of capacity to corn ethanol plants and seeing the Valero deal revalue that capacity at $0.65 per gallon, putting every loan underwater. VC funds are tight, angels can’t afford the later equity rounds, and private equity is sitting out on biofuels until carbon policy is stabilized. To make matters worse, Curt Rich of Van Ness Feldman added bluntly, “there is virtually no chance that a biofuels project can qualify for federal loan guarantees based on the DOE’s current framework.” ””

Finally the Neighborhood Toxicologist writes about the recent article in the New Yorker about synthetic biology,

“There was an interesting article on Synthetic Biology in the New Yorker a few weeks ago. I was able to skim through before relinquishing it to my husband who was heading off to Seattle and needed reading material. I didn’t have time to read the ending – but the basics stuck with and intrigued me. Synthetic Biology strives to one day treat biological systems like a system of Lego blocks. According to SyntheticBiology.Org their goals begin with identification of the parts that “have well-defined performance characteristics and can be used (and re-used) to build biological systems” and end with “reverse engineer and re-design a ‘simple’ natural bacterium.”

That’s it for this week!

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