Move Over Ethanol, Here Come Big Bad Green Algae

With insane gas prices and rising rage against corn-based biodiesel, a new fuel looks like it just may just steal the spotlight. Simple green pond scum Algae is that new fuel and it may just prove to be the mightiest fuel of all.


Because of greenwashing, I’m usually really skeptical about new products and technology claiming that they’re green. But, this seems like the real deal. Using algae fuel instead of gas significantly reduces carbon emissions from cars. Not only that but because algae is a plant, it needs CO2 to live while it?s being processed. And where does it get this CO2? Neighboring coal-fired or manufacturing plants! To sweeten the deal even further, the algae fuel doesn’t need any fossil-fueled machines to make it. So, instead of just not polluting, the algae are also cleaning the air around it.

There’s tremendous producing potential for algae fuel. It produces 10,000 gallons of fuel a year compared to the 635 that palm oil produces and 48 gallons from soy. And it’s cheaper. I did find ONE major negative. Your car won’t smell like French fries. But, I guess nothing’s perfect.

Green algae, or common pond scum, have been held up as a renewable energy panacea. Highly refined strains of the fast-growing biomass can absorb CO2 straight from a power plant’s smokestacks, thrive in brackish water, and have the potential to yield far more biofuel per acre than corn does.

One promising method of algae production involves nurturing the green goo in decidedly low-tech, open-air ponds. But the approach is plagued by a number of issues, including a fivefold drop in yields in cold winter weather.


Now a team from the University of Nevada has shown that simply cranking up the heat can avoid much of the seasonal production decrease. In late November, John Cushman and his colleagues inoculated an outdoor pond with a ? starter? culture of halophytic (salt-loving) algae cells. Since then, they have circulated water heated by natural gas through the pond to keep it at a constant 29? C (85 ? F), despite subzero winter temperatures? an approach that simulates the use of heat from geothermal vents. Three weeks later, they harvested approximately five pounds of algae by dry weight? just half the yield anticipated for summer.

?This will allow us to move from a seasonal crop to optimal production 365 days a year,? says Cushman of the potential to combine algae production with geothermal heating. If the scheme proves a success, Nevada could be in a unique position to capitalize. The state is bathed in sunlight, has vast tracks of open desert, and sits on top of little-utilized saline aquifers and geothermal resources.

About John Morris

John Morris is a researcher and part time content writer. He is foodie and loves to write on and kitchen niches and delicious recipes.