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The steam engine as invented over a century ago is still the blueprint for our "modern machinery". Technologically, we're all but immobile. Yes, there are refinements in finishings and security, but the "heart" of our machines is the old heat-and-explosion technology from the early days of Diesel, Otto and Ford. Even nuclear plants follows that static paradigm - they're nothing but modified steam engines - except that their radioactive byproducts are a threat to future generations. There are great alternatives "out there" and lots of dedicated people working to construct a better, more human-friendly technology for our use. My hat is off to all those who brave the overwhelming odds: government secrecy, patent denial, funding shortage, and sometimes outright obstruction. Non-polluting de-centralized energy solutions and people-friendly technologies are already in our reality. They need your support!

February 03, 2007

Synthetic Biology: Replace Oil Addiction with a 'Sugar Binge'?


Today, sugar is a cheap and sweet, if unhealthy and addictive, addition to our daily meals. But if the plans of an upstart biotechnology company established with funds from Microsoft's Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are anywhere close to what's in stock for the future, we may yet end up paying a premium price to satisfy our sweet tooth.


Sugar Beets have many food uses - Image: Northern-Crops.com

Amyris Biotechnologies, according to an article on ABC13, plans to divert sugar into the gas tank of our cars and trucks and - why not - airplanes as well. Their cutting-edge speciality - synthetic biology - promises to turn the sweet stuff into fuel. Not ethanol but gasoline or diesel ... it's all in the design of the microbes - they can be genetically engineered to do almost anything these days. What will happen to the price of sugar - and in fact anything sweetened with it - once the business gets going, is anyone's guess.

Like President Bush's ill-conceived proposal to use corn for ending America's addiction to oil, biotech designer fuels have every chance to jack up our food prices by unbalancing world agricultural markets, diverting farmers into fuel production when what we need is real food. There's little difference between using corn and sugar for fuel. Both will turn out to be expensive in the long run and both are bound to benefit not so much the users of fuels and food but the multinational corporations that control everything from oil to chemicals, pharmaceuticals and factory farming.

George Monbiot warned two years ago that biodiesel will have a significant effect on the availability of food, as long as the raw material we use competes for its cultivation with crops that have traditionally fed people.

Amyris Biotechnologies, when it was first established with a $ 43 million from Microsoft Founder Gates' Foundation, planned to make an anti-malaria drug using synthetic biotechnology. According to the ABC article, Amyris Vice-President Jack Newman said:

"This was technology that was really great for the current application of making an anti-malarial drug and we said, great, pharmaceuticals, that's a wonderful model and then we realized, our market is in Africa and they make less than a dollar a day."

That was at the time when scientists realized that artemisia or sweet wormwood, a common medicinal plant, could be used as a malaria fighter and was much more effective than the pharmaceutical drugs that were losing effectiveness against the malaria parasite. Since then, malaria fighting artemisia has been cultivated in many third world countries and the biotech upstart had to look for a more lucrative business.

The choice was biofuels, and with a fresh injection of $ 20 million in venture capital and a new CEO hired away from British Petroleum, the company is set to divert sugar into our gas tanks. BP itself is getting seriously involved in the effort, quite apart from its "donation" of a top manager. An unprecedented $ 500 million grant has been awarded by BP to the University of Berkeley, to finance a brand new Energy Biosciences Institute, the SFGate reports.

Why is there such a rush to keep us using petrol products or something very similar?Certainly there are other, more promising alternatives for capital to be employed in getting new energy technologies on line. But then - perhaps turning food to fuel may keep the great energy business "in the family".

See: Sugar in the gas tank? It might run your car someday

Inside Amyris: The Name, The People, The Beginning

Cal to be hub for study of alternate fuel - Group headed by UC Berkeley wins $500 million grant from BP

Continue reading "Synthetic Biology: Replace Oil Addiction with a 'Sugar Binge'?"

posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Saturday February 3 2007

updated on Wednesday November 12 2008

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January 31, 2007

Health Supreme NewsGrabs - 31 January 2007


Sepp Hasslberger's News Grabs - a selection of alternative health news and related bits of interesting information ...

In this issue:

EU law 'will hit internet sales' -
Nutrient Risk Assessment -
EU: 'dossiers' for nutrient sources -
U.S. Gov't Food Safety a Sham -
FDA's Big PharmaProtection Racket -
Thailand decides to ignore pharma patents -
Mobile phones 'linked to tumour' -
Quackbusters "On the Ropes" -
Doctor asks BMJ to end Reporting Bias -
Reputations for sale -
Spread of Cancer Halted With Micronutrient Combination -
Drug company 'hid' suicide link -
Depleted Uranium, Diabetes, Cancer -
WHO Chief in Population Control Vaccine Scandal -
Research into safety of nanotechnology -
'Origami lens' slims high resolution cameras

Continue reading "Health Supreme NewsGrabs - 31 January 2007"

posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Wednesday January 31 2007

updated on Saturday April 14 2007

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December 14, 2006

'Biofuels' Hard Choice: Want Food or Fuel?


It's been just over two year ago that Georges Monbiot warned us of the dark side of an apparently good idea: replacing petroleum based fuels with others based on bio-mass. My article reporting on this drew some critical comments, but the initial fears seem to be borne out now as we are getting closer to implementing the biofuel option.


In May 2005, US president Bush urged widespread adoption of both biodiesel and ethanol production from agricultural products, as part of a strategy to reduce US dependence on oil imports. What he apparently didn't consider were the knock-on effects of such a strategy on food prices and ultimately on the ability of agriculture to assure a supply of plentiful, affordable food for all.

Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute for Science in Society warns in a recent article titled Biofuels: Biodevastation, Hunger & False Carbon Credits
that Europe’s thirst for biofuels is fuelling deforestation and food price hikes, exacerbated by a false accounting system that awards carbon credits to the carbon profligate nations. She adds that "a mandatory certification scheme for biofuels is needed to protect the earth’s most sensitive forest ecosystems, to stabilise climate and to safeguard our food security."

Tom Philpott, in an article published by Grist magazine takes the discussion further, showing that a relatively small move towards biofuels in the US has been doubling the price of corn in the space of a year, as the grain becomes a sought-after raw material for ethanol to be added to gasoline.

What the concerns expressed on both sides of the Atlantic show is that biofuels may be far from the magic solution to our energy problems we are looking for. We should direct our attention and support to real new energy inventions. These new technologies under development by an army of private inventors and tinkerers are without public funding and there is little interest in real breakthroughs. Yes, there are some potentially disruptive technologies out there waiting for their day. They could easily upset the billion-dollar fossil fuel energy interests as they are coming into play. But come they will, with or without public funding.

In addition to the more conventional alternatives such as solar, wind and tidal power, there are promising developments on fuelless technologies that tap the energy potential provided by magnets as well as unconventional chemical and nuclear reactions.

If you're interested in following developments in these emerging energy technologies, there is a great site to bookmark and keep track of by getting their "Daily FE_Updates". There is also a Free energy Wiki which allows anyone to contribute with the accumulation and sorting of information about new energy developments.

But perhaps you want to first get a whiff of the pitfalls of using agricultural biomass for fuel production, which Tom Philpott has exposed in his article Feeding the Beast:

Continue reading "'Biofuels' Hard Choice: Want Food or Fuel?"

posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Thursday December 14 2006

updated on Wednesday December 1 2010

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October 17, 2006

Electromagnetic Pollution Campaign Issue in Ontario Local Elections


One of the most widespread, but perhaps least acknowledged health problems today is the effect of electromagnetic pollution from ubiquitous mobile phone and computing networks as well as electric power transmission lines. Now this issue is entering local politics in a campaign for upcoming Ontario Municipal Elections and is perhaps soon to enter the National political scene in Canada.


Martin Weatherall, candidate for Mayor of the Blandford-Blenheim Township, says he is making severe electrical pollution of our environment the main subject of his election platform. The issue is not an easy one, so he is telling his electorate: "You will need to conduct some basic research to understand the dangers that we are all facing, but the incentive for doing this is the health and safety of your family."

Weatherall's election brochure is doing a good job of making the issue real to his constituents, and there are links on where to go for further information.

"Electrical pollution is likely to significantly eclipse the known harm from tobacco use, but it will not affect “just smokers”. Human and animal life is being exposed to the same danger, through varying levels of radiation. Even Innuit natives of the Arctic have reported unpleasant symptoms when their community had a WiFi system installed recently. The very young and the very old are the most vulnerable."
Continue reading "Electromagnetic Pollution Campaign Issue in Ontario Local Elections"

posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Tuesday October 17 2006

updated on Tuesday October 19 2010

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Synthetic Biology: Replace Oil Addiction with a 'Sugar Binge'?
February 03, 2007

Health Supreme NewsGrabs - 31 January 2007
January 31, 2007

'Biofuels' Hard Choice: Want Food or Fuel?
December 14, 2006

Electromagnetic Pollution Campaign Issue in Ontario Local Elections
October 17, 2006

Dolphins Dead off Zanzibar - Is Navy Sonar to Blame?
May 02, 2006

Low-tech Solar Water Purification: It works
March 24, 2006

Mesh Networks And City Wireless Will Transform The Internet
January 30, 2006

Will 2006 Bring Free Energy Breakthrough?
January 02, 2006

The Cell Phone Experiment: Is Mobile Communication Worth The Risk?
December 14, 2005

Will Hydrinos Replace Oil As Power Source?
November 05, 2005

Energy: Are Oil And Natural Gas Renewable?
September 02, 2005

Science Commons: Open The Flow Of Scientific Information
February 21, 2005

Global Warming: Methane Could Be Far Worse Than Carbon Dioxide
February 01, 2005

Biodiesel Not Sustainable: Will Starve The Poor
November 23, 2004

Laser Light Kills Human Blood: Russian Scientist Warns
October 23, 2004

Water + Sunlight + Catalyst = Hydrogen - Are We Ready For It?
October 05, 2004

'Green Gasoline' Benzene Leukemia Risk In Children Confirmed
August 19, 2004

'Oil Shock' Looming - What are the Alternatives?
June 24, 2004

Kohei Minato and the Japan Magnetic Fan Company
April 05, 2004

Cosmic Internet - The Universe as your 'provider'
February 13, 2004

Disclosure Project charges: Energy inventions suppressed
February 10, 2004

The Whispering Wheel - Electric Diesel Hybrid
December 27, 2003

Nanotubes, Nanoshells, what are the consequences?
November 29, 2003

Air Car or Electric Vehicle?
October 27, 2003

A Universe of Scale - Stars edge closer
September 21, 2003

Nanotech advancing at warp speed
September 09, 2003

Children, cell phones and psychiatry
September 02, 2003

The Energy Racket
August 24, 2003

Genova, the Azores and our Common Future
June 28, 2003

Original blueprints for 200 mpg carburetor found in England
June 07, 2003

British researchers invent thermal energy cell
June 04, 2003


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