Dr. Bruce Dale, Professor at Michigan State University, shared with us his thoughts on chemical engineering and biotechnology and whether or not we can achieve a biobased economy.
1. How does your work as a professor of chemical engineering relate to biotechnology?
Chemical engineers apply physics, chemistry, math and biology to meet human needs. So biotechnology is one tool for us to use to meet these needs.
2. How will biotechnology help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?
Plant material (“biomass”) is the only large scale, potentially sustainable source of the liquid fuels so important to our civilization. Biotechnology provides some very important tools for the conversion of biomass to biofuels.
3. How close are we to achieving a biobased economy? What needs to happen in order to make the transition?
It took us decades to get our society locked in a petro economy. It will take decades to get us unlocked. But we can and must do it. There are no insurmountable technical barriers. What we most need is an unwavering commitment to free ourselves from our oil addiction.
4. In a biobased economy, are food and fuel resources in competition? Why or why not?
If we continue business as usual, absolutely yes. If we are the least bit smart, creative and adaptable, absolutely not.