Puerto Rico is widely known as the "La Isla del Encanto," which translated means "The Island of Enchantment." And while its beaches, tropical rain forest, and bioluminescent bays are wonders of nature, the island is not without its problems. From energy needs to economics, Puerto Rico shares many issues facing the rest of the world.

In this MicrobeWorld Video episode we talk with Nadathur S. Govind, Ph.D., Professor, Marine Sciences Department at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, and William Rosado, Marine Sciences Department at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, about the sustainable biofuel program they are launching in southwestern Puerto Rico.

According to Govind, the island's successful sugarcane industry died in the 1990's. In fact, local rum manufacturers now import their molasses from as far away as Malaysia. As a result, approximately 70 percent of the population in southwestern Puerto Rico is on welfare.

Govind believes he can rebuild the local economy by harnessing bacterial enzymes extracted from the guts of termites and shipworms (mollusks) found in the mangroves off the coast to break down the lignocellulose in sugarcane and hibiscus. The idea is that if he can bring agricultural production back to his community, he can use the crop waste to produce ethanol to supplement Puerto Rico's demand for fuel. And since the byproduct of ethanol is carbon dioxide, he also plans to use algae to capture the gas and produce biodiesel. The waste that he has left over can then be returned to the soil as fertilizer or given to livestock as feed, completing the cycle.

For more information about Govind's program please read the article, "Combining Agriculture with Microbial Genomics to Make Fuels," found in the American Society for Microbiology's Microbe magazine.

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