Filipino scientists are in the thick of the search for alternative
fuels, with experts from the University of the Philippine in
both Diliman and Los Baños campuses searching all over
the archipelago for energy sources from the forests to the
bottom of the sea, from enzymes to fungi and other microorganisms.
Microbiologist at the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU)
are also researching on the possible use of rice stalks that
can be transformed into a feedstock for bioethanol, thanks
to some fungi and bacteria that inhabit wood and other materials
rich with cellulose. It’s biotechnology to the earth’s
Biotechnology advocates are also pushing for the extraction
of oil from malunggay seeds, which have 35 percent oil content,
and these have edged out jatropha plant as viable sources
Others, like former Agriculture Secretary William Dar, are
pushing for sweet sorghum as an energy source, particularly
now that global heating is luring researchers into taking
a good look at tropical plants for fuel.
Sugar industry leaders have been enthusiastically rushing
work on bioethanol plants using sugarcane, which can produce
up to 11 times the volume of ethanol compared to other crops.
The entire world is bracing for a regime of skyrocketing
fuel prices, with oil breaching the $139 per barrel level
and pushing governments to experiment with practically everything
organic to produce ethanol, biodiesel and cellulose.
Gone are the days when the oil moguls could lift oil by
the shiploads and pay the Middle Eastern sheiks a penny for
black gold. So cheap was oil then that Henry Ford opted for
oil rather than peanut oil to fuel his Model T. Thus started
the onward march of horseless carriages known as cars, and
millions of them were manufactured for a world that never
believed fossil fuel could be expensive merchandise.
For Prof. Kelvin Rodolfo, who sports the title professor
emeritus at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
of the University of Illinois, a world whose thirst for oil
cannot be quenched, unbridled use of fossil fuels is also
an attack on the earth and its geology.
The earth, estimated at 4.5 billion years, took at least
600 million years to deposit oil in its bowels and pretty
soon, the supply will be used up. Estimates vary but the
2 trillion or so barrels of oil that could run motor vehicles,
ships, power plants, factories, and other will be expensive
that it would be viable to develop other energy sources.
Rodolfo estimated the peak development of oil as an energy
source took place in the 1930s.
By the 1970s, oil had become some sort of drug and every
economy was addicted to it. However, the price of crude oil
in the world market was stable during the decade, never rising
beyond $50 per barrel even if wars in the Middle East and
the establishments of the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries
(OPEC) caused prices to rise, consistent with the desire
of the cartel to make more profit from a precious commodity.
Since January 2006, nearly three years after the invasion
of Iraq, crude oil breached the benchmark of $63 per barrel
and pushed decades-long research on ethanol production and
the use of alternative fuels to rev up.
Rodolfo, who is Balik Scientist 2008 for the Department
of Science and Technology (DOST), chastises the market for
abusing the environment and pushing the natural limits of
exploration, drilling down nearly to the earth’s core
in seeking more oil. – Biolife News Service