The Algae Solution
All good news again today. According popularly accepted estimates, with achievable efficiency improvements -- there's enough oil from Algae in 15,000 square miles of USA real estate to provide for All of our annual fossil fuel needs. If all of this land were in one rectangular piece, it would be 120 miles by 125 miles (about 1/7th of the area of Colorado, or less than 1/7th the area of corn harvested in the United States in the year 2000).
Yes, Algae-oil is a reality. America's first commercial plant went into production this Feb (Texas), with plans to deliver an estimated 4.4 million gallons of algal oil and jet-fuel. Compared to corn, Algae is 10 to 100xs more productive --- it grows faster, and can be harvested literally anywhere (rooftops, abandoned lots, desert fields, laboratories) in a scalable manner, from mega to micro. Algaes can produce food, compost, bio-plastics, and bio-fuels more rapidly than any other plant on earth.
Because growing Algae requires carbon, some have begun discussing the prospect of placing "algae farms" next to everything from gas-fired generators to coal-fired power plants. GreenFuel, a Massachusetts based algae producer, estimates that 70% of US power plants have enough space and 'food' to install a full complement of CO2 eating, Bioreactor arrays.
Bio-tech enthusiasts believe that with localized production of algae-oils all over the United States, we can immediately access transition to a fossil-fuel-free transportation economy. Doing so would not only reduce tailpipe CO2 emissions 70 to 90%, it would eliminate the enormous embodied energy impacts of drilling, freighting, refining, and transporting dino-oils from underground (all over the world) and into our pumps.
For about $308B (2004 dollars), the United States could build a renewable, locally-produced, low carbon, green fuel infrastructure that would replace today's petroleum infrastructure - without any modifications to vehicles less than 12 years old. Oils derived from Algae, the most productive plants on earth, are capable of making gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, lubrication oil, and everything else we need to run today's transportation system.
The Good News
In the early days of the automobile, most vehicles ran on biofuels. Rudolph Diesel's first engines ran on peanut oil. Henry Ford advocated for hemp-based ethanol. And then petroleum took over. With Algae-oil ... Everybody wins. A fuel source that can be produced locally, which absorbs CO2 emissions, grows rapidly, and eliminates the need for deforestation. A food source that can be cultivated for crops, livestock and humans alike. A commercial product that can be grown in small, medium and large Bioreactors, with relatively low inputs to produce bio plastics and repair damage to our environment. It's "the bamboo of the sea!" A green fuel for the future. Welcome to the vegetable economy.
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