White House touts biofuels from algae as a possible energy savior

Joan R. Neubauer's picture

Yesterday, in a campaign speech about conservation and innovation to University of Miami student engineers, President Obama touted algae as the savior of America’s energy shortages.

According to the White House, the Energy Department plans to invest $14 million to make transportation fuels out of algae. “We could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in the United States. That means greater energy security” and a “stronger economy,” he said.

According to a Department of Energy fact sheet, “Microalgae are single-cell, photosynthetic organisms known for their rapid growth and high energy content. Some algal strains are capable of doubling their mass several times per day. In some cases, more than half of that mass consists of lipids or triacylglycerides—the same material found in vegetable oils. These bio-oils can be used to produce such advanced biofuels as biodiesel, green diesel, green gasoline, and green jet fuel.”

The plant-like organism without roots grows in ponds, streams, rivers, puddles, the ocean, in and your swimming pool when you get behind on your chemicals. In exchange for sunshine, water and carbon dioxide (CO2), the fuzzy little strands produce oxygen as a waste product which we breathe in. In a fact sheet from the Energy Department, the government has already allocated $98 million in research on algae as a biofuel since 2010.

Obama views biofuels from algae as a substitute for gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel. He wants to begin construction on at least four commercial-scale refineries for biofuels by 2013. For its part, the Energy Department plans to ask small businesses, universities and national laboratories to create “test beds” to conduct research on algae biofuels.

Obama said his new motor vehicle fuel standard regulations were so tough that someday they would somehow enable American families to save $8,000 at the pump "over time." He said the price of gas was soaring because of turmoil in the Mideast, something he has no control over. However, he does have control over the issue of drilling permits, something that has moved excruciatingly slow. In addition, he has halted progress on the Keystone pipeline that would act as a conduit for oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

He also criticized Republicans for making energy prices a political issue and mocked what he said were their calls for a three-point energy plan: Drill, drill and drill. On the other hand, he praised his own drive for renewable sources of energy, pioneering work on better car batteries, and a new nuclear plant.

How much time and resources this administration will spend on the development of algae and other “alternative” sources of energy remains to be seen.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
If only Obama meant it...but he doesn't.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
"New sewage gas station in Orange County, CA may be world's first" http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/orange_county&id=8310315 How many American lives does it take to secure a middle eastern oil field? NO MORE OIL / LOBBYIST / POLITICIANS

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