April 7, 2008

Investing in Algae

by Geoff Williams
If you're sick of the high gas prices, there is hope.

As ScienceDaily recently reported, on April Fool's Day, of all days, and other news outlets have been picking up, algae -- no joke -- may someday be a very important component for hydrogen fuel, which right now looks like our best chance for running automobiles on a renewable fuel.

Ethanol currently is the major contender for being the main ingredient for hydrogen fuel, but more than a few scientists and critics worry that the Earth doesn't have enough land to continually grow the corn that's needed to create ethanol to run millions of cars, every day of every year.Algae, on the other hand, can be grown almost anywhere, including inside rows of plastic bags in algae factories, and it's not like this is new idea. There's plenty of research out there on how this can be done; as CNN recently noted in an article, the U.S. Department of Energy has studied the idea of using algae as a fuel source for years, from 1978 to 1996, in fact.

So what's my point? I was too young to invest in Microsoft before it started getting big. I didn't invest in Google, or eBay or a million other companies and industries that could have made me filthy rich. But my mother-in-law has this pond near her house where trees surround it, and the shady water is constantly covered in algae. When it gets a little warmer, I'll be out there, bottling it all up. And then if I don't sell it to the highest bidder, I may just start up my own algae company. I figure by the time this algae-into-hydrogen-fuel really takes off -- with my luck, sometime far off into the future like 2041 -- I'm going to be very, very rich.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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