SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, California -- Fossil fuels that keep our planet running -- oil, natural gas and coal -- were created from the decomposition of plants, plankton and other organic material over millions of years.
Today, scientists all over the globe are working to create fuels with the same properties but without that pesky 100 million-year wait. And "renewable petroleum" is now a reality, on a small scale, in some laboratories.
The biotech company LS9 Inc. is using single-celled bacteria to create an oil equivalent. These petroleum "production facilities" are so small, you can see them only under a microscope.
"We started in my garage two years ago, and we're producing barrels today, so things are moving pretty quickly," said biochemist Stephen del Cardayre, LS9 vice president of research and development.
How does it work? A special type of genetically altered bacteria are fed plant material: basically, any type of sugar. They digest it and excrete the equivalent of diesel fuel.