A picture of an oiled bird is taped to the wall above CHARLIE ANDERSON'S DESK INSIDE A UC BERKELEY LAB. The cormorant, drenched in reddish-brown oil, lies limp on a Louisiana shore, water rippling around its splayed wings. On a hook next to the picture hangs Anderson's white lab coat, embroidered with the words "ENERGY BIOSCIENCES INSTITUTE." The connection between the crisp lab coat in Berkeley and the oiled bird more than 2,000 miles away is BP, the petroleum company responsible for the largest oil spill in U.S. history. BP sponsors the Energy Biosciences Institute at Cal (of which Berkeley Lab is a partner), a buzzing lab of 300 researchers trying to make fuel out of plants. It may seem incongruous that an oil company responsible for such environmental devastation is funding this effort to find green fuels and reduce oil use. But the scientists here say what they're doing is more important than where they get the money. More>
This story also appeared in the Miami Herald.