Newt, Obama and Algae

I’m fighting a serious algae problem in one of my aquariums, so I was intrigued by a proposal by the president to use algae as fuel. Unfortunately, Speaker Gingrich wants to spoil the fun:

“Maybe we should, as an experiment, get some algae and go to a gas station, and you know, sort of the ‘Barack Solution.’ Would you like some algae instead of gasoline? This is the kind of stuff that’s Cloud Cuckoo Land.”

Of course, one might ask Newt about some of his interesting “big ideas,” such as space mirrors and lunar colonies.

  • You know, I do not know if the Algae thing is too good to be true, however I think some of the ideas to use biological material other then food sources might be worth looking into.

    I do know that my truck seems to run just fine on biodiesel blends. I will admit that during extremely cold weather, I try to avoid the biodiesel since it gels at a higher temperature then does diesel that comes from crude. However, when the weather is warm enough, I look at the biodiesel as being a plus. Biodiesel has higher lubricity then does standard diesel. Lubricity is now a bigger concern with the ultra low sulfur diesel on the market. With a biodiesel blend, I get the increased lubricity for my fuel pump and injectors without paying the additional cost of a high priced additive.

    Please realize that Barack Obama was not the first to push for alternative fuel sources. Remember George Dubyah Bush talking about using switch grass to provide ethanol?

    I am starting to lean against using food sources for fuel, but my mind is still open towards using biological material other then food to provide fuel.

  • Tim J

    Yeah, we also remember Jimmy Carter and his energy initiatives.

  • The idea is absolutely ridiculous. Even if there were a cost-effective way to extract biofuel from algae, there would be a huge movement against it, since the yield required to satisfy demand would drastically reduce the presence of algae in our oceans.

    And algae are, what?, one of the greatest absorbers of carbon dioxide. Less algae = more global warming (according to their own theory).

  • Andrew,

    I am not sure what you are pointing to is valid. If you remember, one of the reasons for why we stopped having phosphates in laundry detergent was because the phosphates promoted algae growth.

    If we can promote more algae growth and harvest it, is that such a bad idea? I do not know about you, but I seemed to notice that laundry does not come out quite as clean without the phosphates.

    Proctor and Gamble might start advertising “Cleaner laundry and more fuel in your tank with Tide.”

    • LD, the problem is (with current technology anyway) the amount of algae needed to yield barrels of oil can only be found in the great expanses of the ocean. Promoting algae growth is pretty easy, but we’re not going to get the necessary fuel to satisfy demand by scraping the insides of a washing machine, or even making algae farms. And even harvesting the Chesapeake Bay for Algae, you know, would lead to all sorts of environmental protests, as the equipment needed to harvest it would disrupt the wildlife and the food chain.

  • Or how about this?

    “Join the Tide. You can have cleaner laundry and help solve the energy problem at the same time.”

    Some people might say this is just stupid, because phosphates in the waterways would still be a problem and the increased algae could not be economically harvested. But what happens if we had pools of water with the concentrated phosphates at the sewage treatment plants? Might this not help pay for the costs of sewage treatment if they can harvest the algae there?

    We might be able to kill about three birds with one single stone alone with this by my count.

  • Andrew,

    I am not saying biofuels will solve the problem alone by itself. However Republicans saying all the alternative ideas are without merit are akin to environmentalists saying increased drilling is forbidden.

    Once again, I suspect the answer is somewhere in the middle.

    • I agree. I’m all for alternatives. I just don’t think algae is the answer (not with current tech, anyway). My opposition isn’t political, except in the sense that I can see it not going anywhere with current environmental arguments–especially if a Republican proposed it!

  • Eric the 1/2 troll

    “Since biofuels may not be available at every base, or some overseas locations, the fuel blend must be interchangeable with standard JP-8. “The truth of it is there has been absolutely no noticeable difference whatsoever,” Reed said. “There have been no fuel leaks, no operational impact.””

  • Ann Flan Kirwin

    If it were feasible with current technology, they’d be doing it already. Just a couple years ago Exxon dumped $600 million into researching algae biofuels. There’s some major research going on at universities across the country. It’s not ready for prime time yet, but the potential is undeniable. And we won’t have to harvest it from the oceans or bays either.

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