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Algae Biofuels May Power Cars Soon

June 27th, 2008

algae-biofuels.jpgIn the last article about saving gas through safe driving techniques, we looked at ways in which people could save money by reducing their personal consumption of gasoline. However, another possibility for getting around the high gas prices is to develop some type of alternative fuel source. This article by Aaron Turpen suggests that algae-based biofuels may become practical enough come onto the market in the near future. Below the article I have included some relevant videos that discuss the current developments and possibilities for growing algae and using it to produce biofuels on a commercially viable scale.

With all the hype about biofuels and their great potential for replacing our current fossil fuels as alternatives, there is usually very little talk about when exactly this replacement might take place. Or the talk is in vague terms like “the next thirty to fifty years” or “the next few decades.”

The reality is that most biofuels on the market are not very well positioned to replace anything more than a fraction of our current fossil fuel use. Current numbers from the Department of Energy, for instance, show that ethanol only accounts for about 3.5% of our total gasoline usage in the USA. Biodiesel holds a larger market share worldwide, accounting for almost half of Europe’s total diesel fuel usage (according to the European Union).

Given these numbers, the future might look bright. The problem is that both standard biodiesel and ethanol require the use of crops that would otherwise be eaten by humans or animals or of croplands that would otherwise be used to grow them. This takes food off our tables or at least raises the price of it, which limits our economic freedom in other areas.

Alternatives such as hydrogen are becoming more and more viable, but it will still be decades before the fuel cells can be made at a cost low enough to make the vehicles they power marketable. Similarly, electric-only vehicles are plagued by their relatively short range because of limitations in battery storage.

This summer, however, marks a huge stepping stone for algae as a production-level biofuel. Despite setbacks due to funding cuts by the Clinton administration of the 1990s, new funding and a renewed interest by large corporations in the energy industry have rekindled algae’s possibilities.

Two years ago, not even a handful of companies were experimenting with algae as a fuel source. Now, in 2008, there are dozens. Chevron, Shell, and other large energy companies are teaming with smaller algae experimenters to research and begin production on oil-producing algae. An operational plant in Arizona and another in Texas are already producing on a small scale while new plants in Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, and other locations are being built right now.

All of this means that within the next decade, algae-based biofuels could be readily available for your purchase at the pump. In fact, it may be available at the airport too. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has teamed with Honeywell to come up with a J-8 jet fuel for use in military aircraft.

So expect to see algae-based biofuels on the market sooner rather than later. The high price of gasoline in America has at least one upside: it drives corporations to look for alternatives to polluting fossil fuels!

Algae-Based Biofuel Videos

2 Responses to “Algae Biofuels May Power Cars Soon”

  1. comment number 1 by: cv joint

    That was a nice idea. I saw from one news. U.S. researchers are working on the idea of building algal farms to produce hydrogen for the fuel cells that will power our cars in a decade or two.

  2. comment number 2 by: flowmaster

    who would think that algae can help us to prevent pollution. the world has seen multiple advances in the alternative energy field particularly in algae biofuels.

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