Is Algae-based Biofuel an Energy Game Changer?

Author: Devon Bass
Published: December 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

Biofuel facilityAlgae is one surprising potential energy source that is showing great promise. It has gained recent media attention as the U.S Navy has announced plans to test the use of algae biofuel in one of its cargo ships. Unlike oil which is only found in underground deposits in certain parts of the world, algae grows in abundance all over the globe.  Approximately half of algae’s weight is comprised of lipid oil can be converted into biodiesel. Biodiesel burns more cleanly and efficiently than petroleum.

Alternative fuel sources must be perfected and made cost effective in the coming years if we are to offset the ever-increasing price of gasoline and electricity generated from fossil fuel sources. We have become accustomed to electricity rates that are very low compared to what they may become as fossil fuels continue to deplete. It is critical that we find cost-effective and economically viable alternatives.

Unlike oil, algae are renewable and ubiquitous. Algae grow almost any place on earth.  Pond scum, the most prominent of all the varieties of algae is the form best suited to develop biodiesel.  Unlike other forms of crop-based fuel production algae does not reduce food supply. In fact, algae byproducts that are not converted to fuel can be made into fertilizer.

Many large corporations are coming around to the possibility of large-scale energy production from algae. In fact, currently private sector research is taking place on a larger scale than government or university funded research. There's growing pressure to focus more public funds into research of this potentially game-changing technology.  Many people feel passionately that algae is the key to changing our energy mix away from fossil fuel and that algae could produce most of our electricity and fuel our vehicles if only more funding and effort is put into the research needed to perfect the technologies for processing algae into fuel.

Algae vs. Oil

Despite the large amount of interest from the private energy sector compared to the public sector skeptics maintained that oil companies will not easily allow oil to be usurped as the energy source of choice for the worlds energy needs.  Despite the global economic slowdown that began in 2008 oil prices have remained stubbornly resilient. If supply continues to decline oil prices have nowhere to go but up.  The world's energy needs will not go down absent some kind of global economic calamity.  This means oil companies will always be able to find willing buyers for oil even as prices climb.

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Article Author: Devon Bass

Devon Bass is the founder of Vault Energy Solutions. He has worked in the energy industry for almost 20 years, first as a Market Maker for some of the largest energy companies in the world, then as an energy consultant to commercial, industrial and municipal entities. …

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