If you’re feeling ill trying to keep up with all the strange biofuel news these days, you might want to have some lab tests run. You could have a form of E. coli poisoning, a cyanobacteria outbreak, or maybe you accidentally ingested some highly toxic fire moss or perhaps bumped into a desert locust – feared since biblical times.
Indeed, the whole biofuels world is now “infected” with a serious buzz about microbe-produced liquids that one day may power our clunkers to the corner drug store to have our prescriptions filled!….
What may come to a shock to us, however, is that the U.S. Department of Energy has been supporting the genomic study of these single-cell creatures for years – and in fact, just weeks ago announced funding for 71 new projects through its Joint Genome Institute (JGI), based in Walnut Creek, CA. The winners can be found on JGI’s website at http://www.jgi.doe.gov/sequencing/cspseqplans2010.html.
This year’s “crop” includes a project to study the gut wall and internal microbial community of the desert locust, infamous since Moses’ time for the uncanny ability to consume its entire body weight in a single day; a probe into the energy produced by a strange white rot fungus that destroys plants at will; a study of the hearty microbes that thrive in Alaska’s permafrost environment; and the largest grant of the year – involving a genome of 240 million nucleotides – a probe to understand how fire moss is able to thrive in heavily disturbed soil, including that poisoned by heavy metals.
More biofuel-related news in the rest of the ScienceBlog post.