Thursday, February 21, 2008

Algae -A Solution to the End of Oil?

End_of_oil "All countries must take vigorous, immediate and collective action to curb runaway energy demand. The next ten years will be crucial for all countries... We need to act now to bring about a radical shift in investment in favor of cleaner, more efficient and more secure energy technologies."

~Nobuo Tanaka, head of the International Energy Agency (IEA)

Big oil had better start worrying. Common algae from ponds and waste-water treatment plants has been found to produce vast amounts of burnable oil, say researchers at the University of Minnesota, algae produces an astounding 5,000 gallons of oil per acre. Corn, by comparison, produces a measly 18 gallons. Soybean yields 48 gallons. An acre of palm trees yields 635 gallons.

Algae has a clear advantage in other ways as well. Land crops use up more resources and require more manpower to grow. Algae, on the other hand, is so hardy that it grows all by itself in conditions that require little to no management.Researchers Roger Ruan and Paul Chen will start with 200 gallons of waste water, but see the potential as enormous. The only liability they have to deal with now is how to produce the fuel cheaply. They believe it will be able to be made affordable as the technology improves and starts to catch on.

Exxon claims “We're not gouging US citizens,” after raking in record breaking $39.5 billion in 2007, the largest ever profit in the history of the US.

As society gets increasingly fed up with big oil, opportunities for new energy sources are opening up.The algae production process can also take advantage of excess heat, nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus produced by coal-burning plants and waste-water incinerators, making algae pond farms a possibility for both northern and southern states.

Posted by Rebecca Sato.

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