Monday, June 21, 2010

How to Solve the Energy Crisis and Global Warming...Honest, It Is Easy: Algae

Mark Edwards. Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports and Engineer Sustainable Food and Fuel. Tempe, Az.:, 2008.

Algae has been neglected from many energy research efforts, which is a mistake, according to the author. It has no carbon footprint since it consumes carbon dioxide (i.e. greenhouse gases) and produces oxygen. It can grow easily, in fact, it is one of the fastest growing species. It can be converted into energy.

If the U.S. switches to green algae for oil, it would no longer need to use fossil fuels. It would no longer need to buy oil from other countries. These could become tremendous positive consequence through reducing air pollution, global warming, and ending reliance on energy from countries with negative geopolitical consequences.

1.8 pounds of CO2 is consumed by every pound of algae biomass.

Algae, which is 0.5% of the Earth’s plant biomass, produces 60% of

20 pounds of algal biomass may yield 9 pounds of fuel oil. The oil can be directly used in diesel engines with few resulting pollutants. This biodiesel is 30% more energy efficient than gas, in addition to producing far less pollution.

Some CO2 is released when algae is burned as oil, yet far less CO2 is released compared to burning other fuels.

Locating algae near a CO2 producing source, such as a coal using manufacturer, can increase the speed algae grows up to five times faster.

The ethanol energy alternative uses corn. In a world with growing food demand and food shortages in parts of the world, more corn will be needed to feed people than for fuel.

One acre of algae can yield 5,000 gallons of oil per year and, since its burns 30% to 50% more hotly than does gasoline, can produce 6,500 gallons of energy equivalent to gasoline.

By contrast, one acre of corn can produce 18 gallons of oil per year, which can be converted through starch fermentation to yield 350 gallons of ethanol, which can then produce 224 gallons of energy equivalent to gasoline.

No other fuel comes close to what algae can produce. The amounts of gallons of oil per acre yielded annually are 610 for palm oil, 276 for coconut, 194 for jatropha, 122 for rapeseed, 105 for cacao, 98 for sunflowers, and 46 for soybeans.

There has been a political decision that American research favor corn producers. There are no Federal government grants for algae research since the 1990s. Private sector research in algae was $29 million in 2007 and $84 million in 2008.

It would take 13 million acres, or 3% of U.S. cropland, to produce the same amount of oil as the .U.S. imports. Converting algae to oil, though, will not require using any existing cropland. This will also allow 40 million acres of corn, currently being converted to ethanol, to be grown for food.

Algae will need nutrients to grow. Algae growth requires sunlight. It will likely need to be mixed so algae underneath the algae on top can receive sunlight. Algae can grow in any type of water, including wastewater.

Some algae are 60% protein and some can be eaten. Most algae, though, present digestive challenges. Some taste baldy and some have no taste. Some algae, served as dulse, dilsk, or sol, is sold in Ireland, Asia, and coastal America. Algae can help feed cattle and aquaculture. This all can reduce the demand for cropland.

Algae development patents have been granted to Monsanto in the U.S., BASF in Germany, and Syngenta in Switzerland. A number of other firms are researching algae, including Raytheon.

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