Although many are questioning the sustainability of plant-based biofuels such as ethanol, there seems to be almost unanimous support behind algae-based biofuel. To further that support, a new study by the Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shows that algae biofuel could replace 17% of oil imported into the U.S.
Reducing our reliance on foreign oil
Since we now know it’s possible to grow our own fuel at home, why is it we haven’t yet. The answer is simply that it will require an enormous amount of land, and water. To produce the amount of algae-based biofuel required to replaced 17% of U.S. foreign oil imports (21 billion gallons), we would require the use of land roughly the size of South Carolina. Further to that, each gallon of oil will require 350 gallons of water to produce. In total, the amount of water required to produce that amount of algae biofuel is one quarter of what Americans currently use for irrigated agriculture.
But is it worth it?
When you take into consideration how much land and water are required to produce algae biofuel, it is still better than most plant-based biofuels but not by much. The enormous change which would be required in the U.S. agricultural industry makes this feat seem almost unachievable. So, although the numbers behind producing algae biofuel seem to make the idea feasible, is it really worth it if we need to give up agricultural production?