Biofuels: Miles Per Acre?
So, what do you need to create algae-based fuels?
Sunlight. Carbon dioxide. Flat land. Water. For starters.
Which doesn’t seem to be all that demanding. Because according to Ron Pate, principal member of the technical staff at Sandia National Labs, presently serving as a technical consultant to the algae biofuels program within the—and we’re not making this name up—the Biomass Office of the Department of Energy’s Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EERE), “Algae can produce oils, which are nature’s most effective energy storage medium. We already have the technologies coming online to be able to take that an affordably convert it into really useful fuels that are essentially drop-in equivalent to today’s petroleum-based ground and aviation transport fuels. And there is a lot of promise to create quite a bit of oil from algae, but nobody has really done that affordably on a large, routine scale yet so that you can rely on it day in and day out.”
Which means there is another item that needs to be added to the list: Money.
Still, the partisans of algae-based fuels have a fairly strong argument against those who are promoting such things as soy and canola: They maintain that they’d be able to harvest 3,000 to 5,000 gallons per acre vs. the 50 to 120 gallons per acre per year with the other fuels.
Let’s assume for a moment that there is a straight equivalence between a gallon of gas and a gallon of oil derived from canola or soy (which, of course, there probably isn’t). Given that, a GMC Yukon with a 6.2-liter V8 gets 12/18 mpg, you sure couldn’t get too far on an entire acre.