Need for Alternative Fuels

In the next 20 years, America and the rest of the world will experience a severe energy crisis.  A worldwide shortage of liquid fuels is coming that will result in a serious restructuring of global economies, changes in commuting patterns, higher prices for food and other consumer products, and many other consequences.

Americans consume more than 20 million barrels of oil per day, 65% of which must be imported. Alternative sources of liquid fuels to support our national economy are urgently needed.  The remaining sources of fossil fuels such as coal, oil shale, and tar sands will be far more expensive than conventional oil. These fossil fuel resources also would greatly increase the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, leading to serious negative environmental effects.

Microalgae: A Promising Source of Biomass for Energy Production

Aquatic microalgae are the most productive plants proposed for biodiesel production, with estimates for potential biodiesel production ranging from 5,000 to over 10,000 gallons per acre-year, one hundred times more than soybean or rapeseed oil.  Microalgae exhibit many properties that make them well-suited for use in commercial-scale biodiesel production, including rapid growth and high productivity.  Some strains can be induced to produce substantial quantities of lipids (oil), sometimes as much as 60% of their biomass.

Microalgae can be cultivated in saline ponds and wastewaters that are not suitable for conventional agriculturalirrigation or human consumption.  Their growth requirements are relatively simple: solar radiation, carbon dioxide, water, and nutrients.