The invention provides systems and methods for generating organic compounds using carbon dioxide as a source of carbon and electrical current as an energy source. In one embodiment, a reaction cell is provided having a cathode electrode and an anode electrode that are connected to a source of electrical power, and which are separated by a permeable membrane. A biological film is provided on the cathode. The biological film comprises a bacterium that can accept electrons and that can convert carbon dioxide to a carbon-bearing compound and water in a cathode half-reaction. At the anode, water is decomposed to free molecular oxygen and solvated protons in an anode half-reaction. The half-reactions are driven by the application of electrical current from an external source. Compounds that have been produced include acetate, butanol, 2-oxobutyrate, propanol, ethanol, and formate.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY FUNDED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 The U.S. Government has certain rights in this invention pursuant to Cooperative Agreement DE-FC02-02ER63446 awarded by the Office of Science (BER), U.S Department of Energy, and Agreement No. DE-AR0000087 awarded by ARPA-E.