Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fuel from Algae

As a general rule, I've been opposed to fuel sources made from food products... mostly because it diverts production from food at a time when people are starving around the world and food prices are soaring. But I don't object to biofuels in general, and that's why I'm excited by efforts to turn algae into diesel fuel.

Some strains of algae are ideal for fuel production because they produce higher concentrations of natural oils than other plants. Additionally, they don't take up land that could otherwise be used for growing crops, because algae grows on the water or in bioreactors. Oh yeah, and by using algae, we're not diverting food away from people (unless, of course, they're eating algae... ew).

Questions still remain about whether or not algae will be viable, both economically and environmentally. But either way, it's a lot better than using corn or soybeans.


Anonymous said...

Put simply, we need energy from any and every source we can get it from. Energy is what saves us from living desperate, short lives.

Algae is just one source. We should encourage it, just like nuclear, solar, wind...and yes...even more (local) oil exploration. Any energy source that does NOT involve the ME is valuable to us.

The recession will reduce the price of foreign oil. I'm more concerned about THAT than whether or not we can obtain our own energy sources. If oil goes back to 80/bbl, than there will be less money to obtain new energy sources.

We need to keep our gas to a minimum of 4 dollars/gal, by adjusting taxes to keep it that way, even if oil gets cheaper.


Anonymous said...

Sorry SanJoseMike, I have to disagree with your comment about $4 gasoline. Because there is NO ALTERNATIVE... $4 gas means people are having a hard time buying food and feeding their families. Restaurants are closing (PUTTING PEOPLE OUT OF WORK) because the $50 people would have spend on a meal is now a tank of gas. The Tourism industry is taking a beating because of high gas prices which is PUTTING PEOPLE OUT OF WORK. People are keeping purchases to the basics, which is PUTTING PEOPLE OUT OF WORK... are you following me? While the pain of high gas prices is movitivating companies to explore alternative fuels/energy, we currently have NOTHING. Making fuel impossible to buy is not going to help our economy. Exxon/Mobile with it's $1500 in profit PER SECOND should be force to fund research in alternative energy.

I agree that we shouldn't be exploring just ONE alternative energy. Why can't we use wind power for electricity, maybe biofuels to heat our houses and run our car, solar panel on every house and building for electricity, hydrogen cars. Why does it have to be just ONE source to "solve our problem".... isn't that what got us into this mess?

Our government has done a really fine job suppressing any advancements in alternative energy sources and now THEY blame US for our "addition to oil".

Matt Metcalf said...

I actually agree with both of you.... energy is the currency of the future, and we will likely never have enough of it. It's like hard-drive storage space... you never get to the point where you need less, always more.

Over time, I would like to see gas and oil prices keep going up (and over time they will) to encourage alternatives. But we should have started slowly increasing the price through taxes years ago, like they did in Europe, to encourage conservation, efficiency, and alternatives. Sudden spikes like we've had over the past few years are harmful to people who are struggling financially right now anyway. Higher prices for fuel cause the prices for pretty much everything else to go up, and we're still at least a few years away from any viable alternatives (I'm thinking electric cars powered by scads of new wind and nuclear power facilities).

I wouldn't mind seeing gas prices go down a little further in the short term, until some of those alternatives start to become viable. But I think the drop we've experienced in the past few weeks is likely to be short-lived, and that by winter the price of a barrel of oil will be above $150.