Green Gold, Texas Tea…

Hmm… a Bush-eraDOE biofuel initiative is showing  some promise, it seems :

Pate’s presentation, “The Promise and Challenges for Algae Biofuels: Overview of Approaches and Issues for Sustainable Production Scale-up,” will cover many of the current issues surrounding algae research and development. Algae is emerging as an attractive resource because it reproduces quickly, uses large quantities of carbon dioxide and can thrive in non-freshwater, including brackish and marine water, thus avoiding competition with traditional agriculture’s freshwater needs. In addition, algae can produce biomass and oils, and is attractive as feedstock for renewable fuels, with potentially greater productivity and significantly less land use requirements than with other commodity crop feedstocks such as corn, soy and canola.

In recent assessments that build on earlier work done under the DOE-funded Aquatic Species Program during the late-1970s through the early 1990s, Pate and others have been taking a new look at the nation’s potential for algae biofuels production capacity development and resource requirements. The U.S. has ample sunlight, lower value land and non-freshwater resources in the lower latitude coastal and inland states, including the Southwest region of New Mexico, Arizona and California, to potentially produce large volumes of biofuel feedstock, if high productivies can be reliably achieved.

With algal oil productivities that could potentially reach annual average levels in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 gallons per acre, the land footprint required for large volumes of renewable fuel production would be minimal when compared with other conventional oil crops, such as soy and canola, that produce between 50 and 120 gallons per acre per year.

“With algae, we’re talking about annual average productivities that could reach several thousand gallons per acre per year — with practical values that analysis has shown might be able to reach more than 6500 gallons per acre — so if you do the math, you can see the reasoning behind this research,” Pate said.

Neat, assuming this isn’t just PR.

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1 Comment

  1. anonymous said,

    2010/02/22 at 6:44 am

    The US Government has spent over $2.5 billion dollars on algae research in the last 35 years and all we have to show for it are shelves full of useless patents. Algae have been researched at universities and in laboratories in the US for over 50 years, financed in significant part by government funds. One of the largest problems is that the research has been done in laboratories and at universities, using federal funds, and there is fear at that level that commercialization will ‘ruin it for them’. What it will ruin is the steady stream of ‘free’ money flowing from the DOE, NREL, the DOD, DARPA and other Washington-based agencies to University Row. It was most disconcerting to hear from more than one agency that the funds it awards are, by Congressional mandate, restricted to research. If we could invest one years’ worth of awards into commercialization instead of research, we could easily move this industry into commercialization. The research would be needed to improve technologies, but Microsoft and the American Petroleum Industry, among others, can confirm that this is a necessary component of any industry growth.

    According to my sources. another large problem is, in order to be a grant award recipient, the algae technologies must be investigated and approved by NREL, and that NREL is not particularly supportive of the private initiative. NREL is the same government agency that ran out of money and stopped the otherwise successful Aquatic Species Program after 18 years of federal funding. After the Consortium grant announcement, sources at various government agencies, including NREL itself, shared the fact that grants would only be awarded to proposed groups that included government agencies in their consortia. The truth of that statement lies in the fact that one of the groups that recently received an award is led by NREL and the other by the David Danforth Plant Science Center, and includes two national laboratories (one of which is also a participant in the NREL award) and 11 universities. According to its website, “Scientists at the Danforth Center receive more than half of their funding from federal agencies via competitive grant programs, with the rest of the funding coming from private companies and foundations. In addition to the USDA and the NSF, other federal granting agencies that fund research at the Center include the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency…”. In the last 2 years, it has received grants from the Department of Transportation and the National Sciences Foundation relating to biofuels, in addition to housing one of the DOE’s Energy Frontier Research Centers.

    Federal agencies are incapable of commercializing anything. The only ones that are even remotely designed to earn money are those that regulate the financial institutions, and we all know that the American banking system has failed us miserably. Until someone in Washington who has power and authority to stop this steady stream of funding to nowhere, listening as the algae researchers continue to claim that they are 3-5 years away from completing their research, it’s too expensive and they need more time and money, they will receive grant money from the DOE, NREL, DOD and DARPA. Nothing will ever get commercialized at the university level. Until there is an industry, there is no value to the results of the research. Until development of this industry is taken out of the hands of the research community, and put into the hands of the business, not corporate, community, this industry will never support reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

    An investigation needs to be started immediately at all government agencies involved with algae grants to see who is getting all the research grants and their close relationships between the government, algae researchers and federal contractors. Apparently, there is not yet a ‘master list’ itemizing the grant award amounts, recipients and specific projects.

    The question you need to be asking is ” Does the US really want to get off of foreign oil or do we want to continue to fund the algae researchers at the universities.” The problem is we can grow, harvest and extract algae today with all “off-the-shelf” proven technology. We no not need genetic modification at all when there are existing algae strains currently on the market with 30-60% oil content. Algae production requires far less land and water than any other terrestrial crop (see page 194 of the DOE’s National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap), which has the farmers in an uproar right now. The ethanol credits went away, allegedly shutting down an industry – can it really be that without the tax credit, years of time, effort and expense will be for naught, leaving us with unedible genetically modified corn fields?


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