Sunday, August 30, 2009


There was a time in the recent past when Algal sources were considered as high quality nutraceutical materials containing many miracle health boosting chemical molecules. Before that, single cell proteins (SCP) were promoted in a big way for overcoming protein deficiency amongst poor populations in the world. Though Spirulina is still a big business even now, the initial aura is giving away to more realism and the growth of the industry is not some thing to crow about. However algae as a source of biofuel is receiving increased attention from the existing fossil fuel dealers as well as government bodies for its high yield potential compared to other sources like corn, soy or palm oil.

The lure of high returns eventually and the global warming threat from fossil fuels are driving almost all major fuel companies to algae. "After years of quietly building steam, the algae industry has recently received major, attention-grabbing investments from Exxon Mobil Corp. and Dow Chemical Co. And the industry is starting to find support in Congress with proposals that would provide it tax credits and other incentives gaining bipartisan support". The new administration in the US has given highest priority to alternate energy programs with the avowed objective of reducing dependence on imported oils.

The supporters of algae as a cheap source of biofuel cites the yield potential of this organism, which is 20 to 200 times greater compared to fuels from plant sources and factoring the cost of growing and processing, it is expected that algal biofuel might cost about $30-80 a barrel and if a tax incentive regime is put in place, it may cost even less. According the present projections, a 25 acre plot of land can produce 100 million gallons of biofuel an year and if the present trend of phasing out plant based biofuels continues, algae may become the most accepted route for future renewable energy supplies.


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