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  • Jay Keasling: We are in a race. the race is against time.

  • We have to build cities, we need them.

  • But we have to make them in a different way.

  • Dan Kammen: We need a wave of innovation,

  • not only for our way of life, but also for the planet.

  • The consequences would be enormous if we lose

  • this battle.

  • Thomas Goetz: I'm Thomas Goetz, executive editor at Wired

  • Magazine. At wired, we look

  • at the innovators and innovations that are changing

  • our world. In the next

  • hour, we'll see three stories from acclaimed filmmakers about

  • the future of energy.

  • We'll explore cutting edge innovations in how we drive,

  • how we live,

  • and, in our first story, how we fuel our cars.

  • They're all ideas that promise to

  • shape the path to the world of 2050.

  • [♪...]

  • The world has right now, close to a billion cars,

  • and we might double the

  • number of cars on the planet by 2050.

  • So if we double the number of

  • vehicles, we really increase the amount of fuel they consume, and

  • that's going to have a big, big footprint in terms of our demand

  • for resources to move all those vehicles around.

  • Kay Keasling: We're pulling up carbon that's been stored

  • underground and burning it in our

  • automobiles and putting all that carbon dioxide into the

  • atmosphere.

  • If we don't reduce that, we could have changes in the

  • climate that we could never recover from.

  • There's a number of forecasts for what type of transportation

  • economy we could move into.

  • One vision is that we would use more and more liquid fuels,

  • another one is we'll use more and more electricity.

  • Right now, more of the

  • industrial activity is focused around liquid biofuels.

  • The thing about a fuel is, its really unparalleled on a weight

  • basis how much energy is in a gallon of fuel.

  • And even if batteries develop as some of the

  • advocates hope they develop, we're not going to see batteries

  • running large trucks and we're certainly not

  • going to see an electrified air flight.

  • We're going to need transportation fuels for

  • those that will directly replace the petroleum based

  • fuels that we're using today.

  • This has kicked off people looking at a whole range of

  • other alternatives to petroleum in your tank.

  • Isaias Macedo: Commercial production of ethanol as fuel

  • started in Brazil in 1975. When we

  • started the ethanol program, nobody talked about reducing

  • emissions. This was not an issue at that time.

  • First, and most important, we didn't have money

  • to buy oil anymore after the first oil short.

  • We were importers of oil.

  • And today, more than 50% of all cars use ethanol

  • instead of gasoline.

  • Brazil made a very conscious choice to try to find a way to

  • reduce their fossil fuel dependence.

  • And they didn't have to look very far because Brazil's

  • climate is ideal for growing sugar cane.

  • Carlos Dinucci: when you have sugar cane plantation,

  • you have only two things to make:

  • sugar and ethanol.

  • My family has been in the sugarcane business since 1955

  • and about thirty years ago, I thought

  • "there's an opportunity to make more ethanol."

  • Now, we're producing 120,000 cubic meters of ethanol.

  • Brazil today has very close to 400 sugar mills.

  • The overall sales is 30 billion us dollars.

  • And this number is increasing.

  • If you look at how they make ethanol and how efficient the

  • process is, it's really a model for all of us.

  • They grind the plant up, extract the sugar from the

  • cane, the sugar goes into these large fermentation tanks which

  • combine sugars together with yeast that naturally produces

  • ethanol. They use the rest

  • of the plant to generate heat to distill the ethanol

  • and turn it into fuel.

  • They also use that heat to generate electricity renewably,

  • not putting excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

  • Brazil has gotten to a point today where they're using about

  • 40% less petroleum than they would be otherwise, but Brazil

  • cannot supply the whole world with ethanol because they

  • would have to cut very strongly into food

  • production and into critical natural areas like the Amazon to

  • make that happen.

  • This really boils down to the fact that there's only so much

  • arable land, and growing fuel for our gas tanks is yet another

  • demand on that landscape.

  • We cannot kid ourselves into thinking that we've found a

  • general solution for the world problem.

  • I think we have to face the world in this way today.

  • We have no oil in very large quantities anymore.

  • We have no coal transforming in a clean way, in the meantime we

  • have to do the best we can, and the best at

  • the moment is that we can do biofuels.

  • Sugarcane to ethanol is an incredibly efficient process.

  • You get out about seven times the energy you put

  • into growing the sugar cane. In the US when we produce

  • ethanol from corn, for every unit of input of energy we get

  • about the same amount of energy out.

  • So we're really not gaining anything.

  • We need a better process.

  • We don't have to take what nature's given us, we can

  • actually engineer plants and yeast to be more efficient.

  • And that's the basis

  • for a lot of the work that we're doing now.

  • What we need to look at though, is which of the pathways to come

  • out of this are not only good financially,

  • but those that are also good for sustainability.

  • And this equation is really wide open right now.

  • We are in a race to develop fuels.

  • The race isn't with other countries, the race

  • is against time.

  • Cristiano Borges: To meet the immediate and future demands, we

  • made the energy solution spring from the ground.

  • Luis Scoffone: Brazil is the most efficient ethanol producing

  • country in the world. Sugarcane

  • alcohol from Brazil can reduce the total carbon footprint by up

  • to 70%, compared with gasoline.

  • The biggest challenge for fuel providers, and car manufacturers

  • is to reduce CO2 emissions over the next twenty years.

  • Demand for mobility will continue to grow.

  • We believe that biofuels are very

  • important because they help in an immediate way.

  • All forms of fuel are going to be needed; hydrocarbons,

  • natural gas, biofuels, all of them are going to

  • be part of the energy needs for the future of transportation.

  • Brazil has been very successful at taking a resource they had

  • and finding the process to make that into

  • ethanol and people call those first generation

  • biofuels. We have lots of lab work around

  • the world that are looking at the

  • second generation and that's generally turning cellulosic

  • material from for example weeds, into biofuels.

  • And the United States is very much at the

  • forefront of the innovation part of the equation.

  • For centuries we've been using yeast to consume glucose and

  • produce wine and beer.

  • We're trying to do something very similar, only we're

  • engineering the yeast to consume that glucose

  • and turn it into a fuel or drug or chemical.

  • We call this synthetic biology and when i started in this area,

  • many of my colleagues said "Oh Jay, this is

  • great work, but where's the application, what

  • are you going to do with these tools?" Who cares?

  • Malaria is an enormous problem.

  • In any one year, a million or so people die of

  • the disease and most of them are children under the age of 5.

  • So we thought this was a great opportunity to engineer yeast to

  • produce an antimalarial drug called artemisinin.

  • This drug is derived from plants right

  • now, but its too expensive for people in the developing world.

  • So my laboratory engineered yeast to produce small

  • quantities of artemisinin, now that process is being scaled up

  • and we'll have this drug on the market shortly,

  • but at a substantially reduced cost.

  • It turns out that that anti-malarial drug is a

  • hydrocarbon and it's very similar in

  • many ways to diesel fuel.

  • We thought, gosh we can turn our attention now to

  • fuels. We can make a few changes in that microbe to turn it into

  • a fuel-producing microbe.

  • If we imagine that glucose is going to be our new petroleum,

  • we need a source for that glucose.

  • So the crops that we're looking at are crops like

  • switchgrass.

  • This is a native grass, it grows without a lot of water and on

  • marginal lands. we could turn it into energy farms.

  • The challenge though, is that unlike sugar cane, it's

  • very difficult to get the sugar out of that biomass.