Utah State University researchers are using an innovative approach that takes oil from algae and converts it to bio-diesel fuel. USU is currently conducting research on algae and plans to produce an algae-bio-diesel that is cost-competitive by 2009. Algae, plainly referred to as pond scum, can produce up to 10,000 gallons of oil per acre and can be grown virtually anywhere.
The world today relies on fossil fuels to supply much of its energy, and there are currently 13 terawatts of energy used per year, a number that is expected to double by the middle of this century. Bio-diesel is a clean and carbon-dioxide-neutral fuel that is becoming more popular, but most of the current product comes from soybean and corn oil. As supply and demand grows, so does the price of soybeans and corn. People and animals rely on soybean and corn as a food commodity, eventually causing competition between commodities and growing enough product. Meeting this demand would require the world to use virtually all of its arable land.
Creating bio-diesel from algae would be a huge step forward toward a renewable energy source, and would greatly improve environmental output compared to today's petroleum-based gasoline engines. Algae grows just about everywhere (whether you want it to or not), so it would be readily available in many parts of the world, creating a more dispersed source of fuel than we have currently.