More from the World Congress in Washington

Biofuels & Climate Change

Day two of BIO’s World Congress on Industrial Biotech brought more announcements from Genomatica and BIO itself, and day three promises exciting news from Ceres — The Energy Crop Company, according to sources.

Genomatica successfully scaled its first commercial product — 1,4 butanediol (BDO), a product with a $3 billion market used to make spandex, automotive plastics, running shoes, etc. — to pilot scale, running multiple successful batches of 3,000 liters. Genomatica uses computer aided analysis, modeling and simulation to design highly engineered microbes and has a vision that microbial productivity will increase the way chip memory did for computers.

Ceres has developed a new plant trait that improves salt-tolerance for energy grasses, including sorghum, miscanthus and switchgrass. Researchers tested the effects of very high salt concentrations and seawater from the Pacific Ocean, which contains mixtures of salts in high-concentration, on improved energy grass varieties growing in greenhouses. “Soils containing salt and other growth-limiting substances restrict crop production in many locations in the world. This genetic breakthrough provides new opportunities to overcome the effects of salt,” said Flavell. In food crops, Ceres has confirmed the trait in rice to date and is preparing additional testing in others.

During the lunch plenary session on Tuesday, Raoul Oberman of McKinsey & Co. released the results of a survey of BIO member companies on the future of the industry. Notably, the results included responses to the question, “By the year 2025, what will be the dominant fossil fuel alternative?” The majority (60 percent) of industry respondents said “Bio-substitutes for gasoline,” while 19 percent cited biodiesel and 16 percent said electric vehicles. McKinsey’s analysis showed that on a land use efficiency analysis, electric vehicles powered by biomass achieved 37 miles per acre while biofuels achieved 30.

More than half (55 percent) of respondents said there is currently insufficient capital to support growth of the industry. Three quarters of respondents (76 percent) supported “Governments create long-term regulatory frameworks and offer incentives” as a solution, and two thirds also supported “Science offers clear evidence of biofuel efficiency and carbon impact” as a driver of investment.

You can view the presentation of the findings by Oberman at McKinsey Industry Survey on Biofuel Outlook 2010.

BIO also presented the 2010 George Washington Carver Award to MIT Professor Greg Stephanopoulos, a pioneer in metabolic engineering and commercialization of industrial biotech processes.

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