World and Nation

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European Commission raises growth forecast

The European Commission significantly raised its growth forecast for the region on Monday because of strong output data during the second quarter, and said that the recovery was starting to broaden across sectors.

In the latest of its twice-yearly economic forecasts, the commission predicted a growth rate for 2010 of 1.7 percent in the 16-nation euro area, and 1.8 percent for the 27-member European Union. Those were upward revisions of around three-quarters of a percentage point compared with the last forecast in May.

It stressed that the recovery was uneven across countries. The higher forecast was based on new, more positive assessments of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, which account for about 80 percent of the European Union’s gross domestic product.

This unevenness reflects differences in production structures, the scale of adjustment challenges and rebalancing within the European Union and the countries that use the euro.

But it added that the recovery was broadening “across sectors and demand components.” In particular, it noted a better contribution of private investment and consumption to growth in the second quarter of 2010, exceeding the combined contributions of inventories and net exports.

Biotech company to patent fuel-secreting bacterium

A biotech company plans to announce Tuesday that it has won a patent on a genetically altered bacterium that converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into ingredients of diesel fuel, a step that could provide a new pathway for making ethanol or a diesel replacement that skips several cumbersome and expensive steps in existing methods.

The bacterium’s product, which it secretes like sweat, is a class of hydrocarbon molecules called alkanes that are chemically indistinguishable from the ones made in oil refineries. The organism can grow in bodies of water unfit for drinking or on land that is useless for farming, according to the company, Joule Unlimited of Cambridge, Mass.

“We make very clean, sulfur-free hydrocarbons that drop directly into the existing infrastructure for the production of diesel fuel,” said William J. Sims, the chief executive of Joule. The object, he said, was not to be an alternative for fossil fuels, but “to become a viable replacement.”

Joule said it was the first company to patent an organism that secretes hydrocarbon fuel made continuously, directly from sunlight. Other companies are working on organisms that will make fuel if fed sugar from corn or cellulosic sources.