Algae was an ingredient in the fuel that propelled the Navy's "Green Fleet" in July. The Navy, along with the departments of Energy and Agriculture, has committed $510 million for the development of renewable, drop-in biofuels for the military. Algae, with its ability to produce an oil that mimics the properties of crude, could easily slip into existing motors that currently run on fossil fuels, proponents say.
Lower on NAS's list of potential concerns were the consequences of accidentally releasing genetically modified algae into the environment and the effects of converting rangeland or pastureland to biofuel-making ponds.
While the report offers no surprises for commercial algae fuel producers, it is welcoming to see attention from an academic institution, said Stephen Mayfield, director of the Center for Algae Biotechnology at the University of California, San Diego. Historically, commercial companies have outspent universities and the federal government at least 10-to-1 in research of algae fuels, an inverse pattern compared with investment for other forms of biofuels.
Last year, NAS released a grim report on the future of cellulosic biofuels, finding that producers are unlikely to achieve the goals of the renewable fuel standard, which mandates that the country produce 16 billion gallons of fuel from agricultural waste, grasses and other plant sources that don't come from food crops. While that report was a "game-stopper" for the cellulosic industry, NAS doesn't shut down the possibility of an algae future, said Mayfield.
"There's nothing that's going to stop this," he said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500