I suppose we all knew this day was coming.
Silicon Valley company LS9 is using bugs eating agricultural waste and turning it into renewable Oil 2.0 in a process that is carbon negative, because the carbon it emits will be less than the carbon of the raw materials for which it was made. LS9 hopes to have a demonstration-scale plant ready by 2010.
From the Times Online:
For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.
The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.
Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready.