Algae have been in existence for many millions of years. (Since the Precambrian Era to be exact.) We probably remember studying its various forms in middle school biology class, or perhaps avoiding it when taking a swim in the local river or lake. Yet it is pretty safe to assume that we likely never appreciated its economic value until as of late, at a time when our dependence upon energy supply has never been greater.
Simple rootless plants growing in sunlit water have now become quite the focus of scientists, energy producers, and economists who are fascinated with the possibilities associated with algae production and biofuels. Algae oil can be made into biodiesel, ethanol, biogasoline, jet fuel and bioplastics. Algae biomass can be made into many different co-products including nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and organic fertilizer.
The algae industry is quickly moving technologies out of the lab and into commercial-scale algae production. Many new algae production plants are scaling-up to produce algae oil and biomass for co-products. Algae proven technologies are being implemented today in the new algae industry. Enhancements will continue as scientists and entrepreneurs move into commercial-scale algae production.
Using algae as an alternative fuel is not a new idea. The U.S. Department of Energy studied it for about 18 years, from 1978 to 1996. But in 1996 the feds decided that algae oil could never compete economically with fossil fuels. Energy costs have multiplied since the mid-90’s and domestic energy security is a more important issue than ever. The time has arrived to again begin seriously pursuing such technologies on all fronts if we are to realistically promote a balanced energy plan for America.