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The sun doesn’t shine as brightly for Energy Secretary Steven Chu these days. But he has other ideas for saving the world from the evil of fossil fuels. Can we forget Solyndra?
Instead, how about the “Glucose Economy.” The what? Chu came up with the idea of a global “glucose economy” to supplant mankind’s dependence on oil while he was teaching physics and molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
For his global glucose economy, vast supplies of fast-growing crops would be planted in the sunny tropics. The plants would be converted into glucose. The glucose would be shipped around the world much as oil is today, for eventual conversion into biofuels to run our cars. Wow! What an approach to the energy problem.
Not all tropical countries, whether oil producers or agricultural powers, are friends of the United States. But Chu has the ideas needed to deal with global warming– if there is indeed any real problem with global warming, which science says occurs intermittently with global cooling throughout history.
Then there is Chu’s somewhat peculiar idea for utilizing termites’ guts. As Chu explained in a interview in 2007 when he was director of the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, “Termites have developed a symbiotic relationship with colonies of bacteria that reside inside a termite’s gut and convert biomass, specifically cellulose, mostly from wood, into chemical energy the termite can utilize.
“If we can learn to either genetically engineer the microorganisms from termite guts, or cow guts…to produce more energy from biomass than they need, or else adapt the chemistry within the microorganisms to process the biomass ourselves, we would go a long way towards reducing our dependency…(on) oil.”
If he could find ways to turn cockroaches and mosquitoes into energy, that would be a real blessing.
Chu, in the interview, was also asked to talk about “out of the box” energy research—as if termite guts were an “in the box” concept.
He explained in the interview: “We think a solution to the energy problems may lie at the interface between biology and the physical sciences on the nanoscale. We are now mounting a major, multidisciplinary initiative…which would develop ways to convert solar energy into a carbon-neutral form of energy that could sustain our world in an environmentally friendly manner,
“To do this, we are drawing on our expertise in nanotechnology and synthetic biology and the resources…at the West Berkeley Biocenter…and at The Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy nanoscale science research center….
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