Commend Efforts to Find Green Fuels


Target: Jay Keasling, CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute and Director of the Synthetic Biology Research Center

Goal: Commend innovative efforts to find alternate sources of fuel

It may one day be possible to source the gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel required to meet the world’s needs through a technology called synthetic biology. While this technology is relatively new, and its full capabilities are not yet realized, its potential is promising.

Scientist and researcher, Jay Keasling, is a leader in synthetic biology. In addition to being the CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute and founder of three biotechnology companies, Keasling is a professor at the University of California Berkeley, and describes his research there as revolving around the question, ‘”how do you engineer chemistry within cells?”‘ Synthetic biology has been his answer.

Synthetic biology is the genetic engineering of microbes, like yeast, but instead of altering one or two genes, multiple genes are changed so that the yeast becomes a “chemical factory.” This means that the yeast microbe can now produce other chemicals. For example, Keasling and colleagues were able to alter the genes in yeast so that it would create artemisinin, a drug that treats malaria.

The ability to create artemisinin gave Keasling hope that fuel would be able to be created using a similar process, and after some work and experimentation, Keasling and his team were able to create diesel from the yeast microbes. Currently, a factory in Brazil is using this yeast to create diesel fuel that powers buses in Rio and Sao Paulo.

This has been a great success, and although the fuel produced is still too expensive to be used in a mainstream capacity, its production points to the beginnings of a solution to creating a greener world. Keasling says, “…if we replaced a third of our transportation fuels and made them renewable…we could decrease the use of petroleum-based fuels so we were putting much less carbon into the atmosphere.”

While genetically altering microorganisms may not always have positive outcomes, the research Keasling is spearheading will help the environment and can, in the future, offer cleaner mainstream alternatives to traditional fuel sources.

By signing the petition below, you will commend Jay Keasling on his efforts to find alternatives to fuel.


Dear Jay Keasling,

Many companies are focusing on ways they can help the environment by using their research. Your work in synthetic biology has the potential to create a clean alternative to traditional fuel sources.

Recently, genetically modifying microorganisms has come under heavy criticism. Continuing your work and striving to accomplish your goals despite this criticism is truly admirable. The work you do can, in the future, change the way the world sources fuels, creating a cleaner, greener environment. We would like to commend you on your efforts.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Gotz via Wikimedia Commons

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