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Week 1 – Algae

Extracting biodiesel from algae just may be one of the most promising solutions to our nations energy crisis.

Diesel engines using petroleum fossil fuels consume around 60 billion gallons of petroleum diesel per year according to statistics from the Department of Energy.

While less energy efficient gasoline engines consume around 120 billion gallons of petroleum fossil fuels per year.

Replacing that amount of consumption with soybean biodiesel production however, would not be possible for self-stainable purposes.

With our nations current use of cropland, soy production would need to use a plot of land twice the size of our nation itself.

The United States uses 450 million acres of land for producing crops at the moment, the majority of which is actually used to support the meat industry with animal feed.

Another 580 million acres of land is used for grazing those same animals. Together, that comes to almost half the 2.3 billion acres within the US alone, of which merely 3% is urban space, around 66 million acres.

If it is supposed that the current gasoline engine is 35% less energy efficient than diesel engines and with the change to biodiesel, replaced gradually over time by diesel engines, our nation would need to produce something like 140.8 billion gallons of biodiesel to operate every single car and truck (both gasoline and diesel) in operation today.

In order to completely replace petroleum as a source of combustion fuel in our country and be totally self-reliant, we would need to produce these vegetable oil crops ourselves.

The best plants for biodiesel feedstocks are those efficient at converting solar energy into chemical energy. Certain types of algae have proven suitable for our nations needs, some with oil strains as high as 50%.

Algae can be grown cheaply in saltwater ponds out in the middle of the desert or even more efficiently in proprietary photobioreactors (which solve a lot of the problems encountered in open ponds for a few more dollars on the initial investment).

Another interesting factor with algae production is the possibility of using human sewage or other waste products such as polluted streams from fertilizer run off, to feed the algae with nutrients.

Algae could be produced anywhere in the country using inexpensive photobioreactors (still in the design stages) at the same rate as open ponds in the middle of the desert, but with the advantage of catching many of our different pollutants and waste products (such as industrial waste) and converting it into a useful feedcrop for biodiesel production.

This aspect of bioremediation is what makes biodiesel from algae all that more desirable to the nation in terms of sustainability concepts, as it kills two problems with the same stone and completes the thermodynamic cycle in a far more sustainable way.

If only 15,000 miles of the Sonora desert were used (that is 12.5% of its landmass), the nations need for biodiesel could be sustained easily on algae based vegetable oil alone.

This is, taking into account of course, that all current on the road gasoline engines as well as diesel were all powered by biodiesel alone, in our country, without any petroleum consumption whatsoever.

That not only answers our problem with land-space for production, but also uses bioremediation as a fertilizer for feedcrops of algae.

If algae production for biofuels is used intensively in conjunction with bioremediation, our countries economy would become the most self-sustainable for its size in the entire world, and still have fuel product left over to export if desirable.

Biodiesel from algae is an option that we have at the moment, one of the best. One that stimulates our nations self-reliance and sustainability, keeping away from the dependence on foreign resources as well as away from undesirable foreign politics.