Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Promise of Algaculture

I was on a plane yesterday, on my way to Bangor, Pennsylvania for an Enneagram workshop at the Kirkridge Retreat Center.

I had two copies of The Economist with me, and a couple of articles caught my eye.

The first on alternative energy, Sea green, starts like this:

"One of the crazier ideas for dealing with global warming is to sprinkle the oceans with iron filings. One reason the sea (unlike the land) is not covered with plants is that it lacks crucial nutrients--iron, in particular."

The article goes on to quote a British researcher, John Munford, as hypothesizing that a project to "fertilise the oceans" might help stop climate change and might also yield a sustainable source for biodiesel to replace dependency on fossil fuels.

In my own backyard, researchers at the Utah State University (USU) are working on converting algae into biodiesel in a cost-competitive way. Their goal? The year 2009!

We've all heard about the problems with wood, corn-, soy-based bio fuels (high fossil energy requirements and increased demand flips wood pulp and food prices into the stratosphere).

Michael Briggs, of the University of New Hampshire's Biodiesel Group, published an article on
Widescale Biodiesel Production from Algae, which articulates the history, production, and cost issues of biodiesel.

Briggs includes a section in his article on the move from harvesting open air pond scum to the use of enclosed photobioreactors (proprietary technology gadgets writ large, that still need some R&D to become commercial "green gold" mines).

As Dr. Rodier continues to evangelize the benefits of algae for nutrition, scientists around the world are working on extracting breakthroughs from algaculture.

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