Thursday, September 24, 2009

Algae in politics

While reading through a few articles I came across one based on algae and its development and possible future as a biofuel. The research and development done for this project was through Sapphire Energy which has since its beginning in 2007 has over "200" patents of its "designer algae" mechanisms. The focus of the article was toward the "green" nature of algae ands its efficiency as a fuel in areas of cost and productivity. The part that really caught my attention however was the political and business portion of this green venture.

In one particular section Mayfield, one of Sapphire's founders, commented that " there are no senators for algae-growing states to go back to Congress and say, 'Stop giving money to corn and give it to algae'." This is a rather inverse affect of one of algae's positives that it can be grown virtually anywhere- that because it has no "official home" it receives little political support at the time. (Though at this time Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwomen, Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, support algae and its development.)

Under the current writing of the House Bill toward carbon offset ventures and biofuel equivalences, algae does not yet qualify as being either. But with continual drive from such political backing and business networks the language of the bill will be rewritten in order for algae research to gain grants and other government support.

In order to strengthen its foundation Sapphire Energy has been building bridges in the world of business. Not wanting to project themselves as a competitor fuel source it has lent itself toward facilitating needs of other energy providers- such as coal burning plants. In one section it was noted that algae absorbs and fixes CO2 as part of its chemical metabolism and algae stations have thus become a factor in some power plants in reducing their carbon emissions to meet EPA standards.

For the full article click this link, it is a rather long article but I found it very interesting and gave me a better perspective on the energy issues and how politics and business interplay with new energy developments such as algae.


Borja JR said...

Algae really do seem to have created a whole new possibility in terms of replacing transport fuels on a short term basis.So what exactly are we looking at then? Glen Kertz CEO of Valcent Products in El Paso says "We obtain the majority of our energy from the sun" So essentially we are looking at technology with a low energy input. This is always beneficial as the more we get for free, the more economically viable it is.
The energy values are as follows, utilizing their current technology 93 million liters of oil is produced per square kilometer. Compared to corn where 28000 liters per Km2 and 46700 liters per km2 for soy. So we are talking about a very very large difference between these sources.
From a political point a view, there are a few aspects that can be taken advantage of. The fact that algae need CO2 to grow. This can be seen as a form of sequestration and so, if the thought of investing in huge fields of algae farms doesn't seem attractive surely the incorporation of them into coal plants for example, as a way of justifying coal plant investment can be seen as a very interesting political energy policy plan

WattsUp03 said...

The best part about getting fuel from “algae oil” is the ability to transport and distribute it through current oil distribution networks and systems. This is very appealing compared to other biofuels because it gives algae a lower price tag to the government, producer and consumer. The only problem with this technology is that it needs to stand on its own without too many government subsidies. We cannot all pay the price for just making oil more expensive in order to make other fuels economic. That is why it is good to see SD-CAB working so hard to improve the efficiency of their algae! It also is nice that it is an oilfield above ground and might use less of our current crude oil to transport and refine into consumable oil. I do hope that they can change the legislation to include algae in the biofuel initiative because it will not put as much pressure on corn, switch grass, sugar and crop land to produce the 21 billion barrels of biofuel mandated by 2022!