Fuel For Thought – How Many Miles to the e Coli Do You Get?

What’s the most popular automotive technology today? If you answered six-pack carbs I want to have your babies, but you would be sadly wrong. Actually, increased fuel mileage technology is the new haute. That’s because apparently we reached peak crude oil production in 2005 and are now resigned to sucking life-giving hydrocarbons from rocks and teenagers’ foreheads. But that won’t be the case if Joule has its way.
Joule, a secretive east coast startup that sadly isn’t creating spontaneous fire-creating Drew Barrymore clones, is, if their website is to be believed, creating hydrocarbon fuel from nothing more than Co2 and sunshine. Yeah, halle-freakin’-lujah. What Joule claims they have created is a custom life form that feeds on CO2  and poops out unleaded, diesel, and the stuff your 747 runs on. Coffee, Tea or Me indeed.
If this all sounds like something Billy Mays may have touted on national TV before going tits-up due to his coke addiction, well, it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not real. Joule boasts that their technology will have their designer bugs farting out fuels for as little as $30 a barrel. Thirty bucks! In comparison, dead dino juice – the flow of which is currently controlled by people who mostly despise us, and that we sent Saddam Hussein to dictator heaven for – is currently tracking for damn-near $90 per drum.
Joule says eff that.
The company’s claim is that their custom photosynthetic organisms convert waste CO2 and sunlight into a viable fuel – octane rating TBD. This would of course make our efforts to stabilize the  Middle East moot – hey guys, go nuts! – It would  also mean the Alaska pipeline could be converted to a moose log jammer ride, and that that state would no longer benefit from the $1,000 per resident bonus they all get. You know who’s gettin’ screwed? Juneau!
Of course, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, there is no free lunch, caveat emptor, etc, and the oil industry and their political allies would never let something like this exist without someone like Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, or perhaps Scooby Doo foiling the plot. But just in case this isn’t some pie in the sky attempt to generate venture capital before going the way of Elvis, then Joule may be a company to watch.
Image source: [JouleUnlimited.com]

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  1. jim-bob Avatar

    Sounds great on paper but those of us who follow alt. energy have heard this sort of thing before. I'll believe it when I see it in action on a large scale. After all, you can supposedly get hydrogen by using algae as a scrubber on smoke stacks (MIT) but so far no one is really using it on a large scale either. There are supposedly also new solar technologies that will be able to be painted on buildings for energy generation too but actual production has yet to be realized (Nanosolar CIGGS cells). Forgive me for my skepticism but for as much as I want these things to be true they simply have never seen production. I also don't buy that oil companies are suppressing all of them either. If anything, I would expect them to buy into these companies to cash in on potential revenue sources that would be less prone to regulatory headaches than petroleum. It's going to happen eventually anyways. Might as well get in on the ground floor early if there is money to be made. Not doing so when a viable product exists is long-term financial suicide. Then again, US corporations never were good at planning for the long term…

  2. SSurfer321 Avatar

    LS9 (www.ls9.com) has been using these e.Coli for years trying to create fuel from waste (wood chips). To my knowledge they have yet to turn over a vehicle powered by their "renewable fuel."

  3. OA5599 Avatar

    All is well and good until People for the Ethical Treatment of Photosynthetic Organisms gets involved.

    1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

      Man oh man I hates me some PETPO bitches, always messin' with my single-celled needs.

  4. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Before the heavyweights descend on me and beat me to hell with their better economic understanding, it's all a case of cost-versus-demand.
    In Europe and the UK, where a litre of petrol is £1.30, making a US Gallon £4.92 ($7.86 on XE.com today), people are beginning to crave alternative fuels all over the place. The first company who can successfully market an alternative to processed crude, and manage to keep it under the radar tax-wise, will do rather well.
    There are people who use vegetable oil as a substitute for diesel, but very few due to the cost-saving versus the effort involved. LPG is increasing in popularity, but it's only a matter of time before taxes are increased on it and it loses its appeal.
    I may be drastically oversimplifying and spouting stereotype garbage, but I know that in the US if anything economic happens that puts personal mobility and the right to transportation in peril, riots occur and people get killed. What remains to be seen is how much further the US gallon has to rise before A; this happens, or B; the population at large see the point in hanging up the gas pump and switching to something else.

    1. dragon951 Avatar

      As someone who works daily making evil E. coli clones to take over the world, I can say that this is likely limited by scale and effort. It is certainly possible to manufacture organic molecules using bacteria, and even cost effective…on a small scale. Various proteins with biomedical application are manufactured this way, as it is the best way to synthesize them. But production is on the order of grams, not gallons. To make that much would take a huge operation, and managing that many cultures would likely be a huge effort. Now I should probably go read their website and actually look at their numbers.

  5. tonyola Avatar

    [youtube l6ZAktYiumc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6ZAktYiumc youtube]

    1. seanster Avatar

      Literally the first thing I thought of when I saw this post. Kudos to you, sir

  6. Mr_Biggles Avatar

    Great work Hooniverse. Now that you have let the cat out of the bag, it would not surprise me in the least of some Big Oil funded commando team of Chuck Norris clones descends on these poor microbe raising hippies and wipes them off the face of the earth.

  7. BGW Avatar

    Combine that with Smokey Yunick's adiabatic engine and we should see nearly infinite fuel mileage for mere pennies. I'm ready to cash in my 403(b) and invest already!

  8. Feds_II Avatar

    It's happening here in Canada too. there are definitely issues with bio-engineered algae, but the early results I have seen are very promising.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      SoylentDiesel is people?

  9. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    First: energy never is or was a problem! There is always nuclear power that can be converted to hydrogen power (better than batteries to store energy). The lobby for fossil fuels is too strong, but now with high fuel prices it´s becoming more interesting to find alternatives for it and even stay away from the “dangerous” nuclear power. (nuclear waste is so much easier to control than CO2 floating everywhere)
    As time and effort is put into these new technolegies, sometime the monkey will escape. The development curves for new technolegies are steeper up than ever (see mobile telephones, computing, genetics, etc.)
    We all can stay cool, there will be hoonmobiles in future, a bigger concern should be if there is space enough for all of us to play with them.

    1. dragon951 Avatar

      Indeed, Nuclear is a perfectly viable and safe alternative for power grids, but battery technology has still not reached the energy density required to make it viable in cars as a complete replacement for on demand fuels.

    2. discontinuuity Avatar

      I say cut out the middle man and make nuclear powered cars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Nucleon

      1. dragon951 Avatar

        Score! Pulls up to the gas station and requests a gram of Uranium…

        1. dr zero Avatar
          dr zero

          Just don't use VW bus driving Libyans to get your nuclear fuel:
          <img src="http://www.imfdb.org/images/thumb/3/31/Back-to-the-Future-AK-47.jpg/500px-Back-to-the-Future-AK-47.jpg"&gt;

  10. dragon951 Avatar

    "…the flow of which is currently controlled by people who mostly despise us…"
    Canadians despise us? I knew that inexhaustibly polite thing was just a front.

    1. Robert Emslie Avatar
      Robert Emslie

      How would you like to be referred to as America's hat?

      1. dragon951 Avatar

        Better than being America's underpants: Mexico.

    2. highmileage_v1 Avatar

      If we aren't polite a hockey game breaks out!

    3. Deartháir Avatar

      I thought I had made that abundantly clear over the last year or so. Was I being too subtle? 😉

  11. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Hmmm. So possibly close, but no cigar.