Washington, June 4 : A scientist has determined that bioenergy can be the best realistic alternative to meet our current and future energy needs while cutting back on the use of fossil fuels.
The scientist in question is Biodesign Institute researcher Bruce Rittmann.
For Rittmann, the threat of global warming presents a significant opportunity for innovation and fresh solutions to today's energy challenges.
"Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, the unprecedented expansions of human population and economic activity have been based on combusting fossil fuels," said Rittmann.
"Today, fossil fuels provide 80 percent of the energy needs to run human society worldwide: 34 percent petroleum, 32 percent coal, and 14 percent natural gas," he added.
This makes finding alternative sources of energy all the more important.
In a new article published in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Rittmann points the way toward developing bioenergy as the best realistic alternative to meet our current and future energy needs while cutting back on the use of fossil fuels.
"The only way that human society has a realistic way of slowing and reversing global warming is bioenergy; and it has to be bioenergy that is done right," said Rittmann, who leads many of Biodesign's sustainability-themed research projects.
"Most critically, we need to be able to have bioenergy sources that work on a very, very large scale," he added.
Rittmann sees a vast untapped potential of using microbes in service to society to meet our energy challenges.
"Photosynthetic bacteria can capture sunlight energy at rates 100 times or more greater than plants, and they do not compete for arable land," said Rittmann.
This high rate of energy capture means that renewable biofuels can be generated in quantities that rival our current use of fossil fuels.
In addition, non-photosynthetic microorganisms are capable of converting the energy value of all kinds of biomass, including wastes, into readily useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen, and electricity.
"Microorganisms can provide just the services our society needs to move from fossil fuels to renewable biofuels," said Rittmann. "Only the microorganisms can pass all the tests, and we should take full advantage of the opportunities that microorganisms present," he added.