Our Next Best BioFuel is at the Bottom of a Pond

Algae Under The Microscope

The fastest new oil that’s climbing the ranks to be the most efficient biofuel isn’t being grown in corn or soybeans: it’s being grown (relatively) naturally in what I like to think of as “Algae Greenhouses”. A new technology called is allowing researchers to string up transparent plastic bags that contain the algae in order to maximize the sun exposure. This way, the green layers of “pond scum” receive the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day and can carry out photosynthesis in a much more efficient way than previously thought (which was actually scraping it off of existing pond liners). Algae has the potential to be a huge oil producer. Early expectations suggest that an acre of algae farm will be able to produce 100,000 gallons of oil per year, compared to the same acre producing 30 gallons from corn, and 50 gallons from soybeans. The numbers alone suggest that this is the best idea currently being pandered by biofuel enthusiasts.However, it’s going to be a long time before we ever get to fill up our cars with this slimy fish food. Not only had the U.S. Government already studied its uses for nearly 20 years, ending in 1996, but the process of growing the algae extracting the oil is still far too high at this point for an algae biofuel to be feasible. But hey, come back when a barrel of oil is $250, and we can compare what’s cheaper then.Photo credit to: Captain Wick at Flickr.