The scientists genetically engineered marine algae to make valuable industrial enzymes in addition to oil. This feat had been performed in freshwater algae but not in marine species, said UC San Diego researcher Stephen Mayfield, who led the study.
They experimented on a species of algae named Dunaliella tertiolecta, which has a high oil content. They inserted five genes, allowing production of five kinds of industrial enzymes.
“What we showed is that we could do the genetic engineering that’s going to be required to really get costs down,” Mayfield said.Algal biofuels must compete not only against fossil fuels but against other crops, including corn and nonfood “cellulosic” plant material for ethanol, and the jatropha bush, which produces oily seeds. All of these biofuels face limitations that prevent their large-scale adoption anytime soon.The latter is key, of course, but it is obvious that the sooner we start planning for the use of these sustainable sources of fuel, the better off we'll be.