August 3, 2009

Algae: Promising fuel

Exxon has launched a $600 million project to turn algae into gasoline. Hurrah. We hope this green research helps break America's dependency on foreign oil.

Exxon teamed up with Synthetic Genomics -- which decoded human DNA -- in hope of giving America a whole new energy source, and also eliminating some of the climate-wrecking carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. Like all green plants, algae consume CO2 and emit oxygen.

In Huntington, two entrepreneurs, Matt Sabin and George Bauer, created American Algae Growers Corp. in hope of producing fuels. They want to obtain waste CO2 from West Virginia coal-fired power plants and pump it into vats of rapid-growing algae, which can be turned into biodiesel gasoline.

Until now, America has focused mostly on turning corn into ethanol fuel. But this wastes valuable food -- while algae isn't otherwise needed. Further, an acre of corn produces only 80 gallons of fuel, while an acre of algae vats could produce 15,000 gallons.

Worldwide resistance to polluting fossil fuels is growing. Many nations are seeking clean energy through wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, nuclear, biomass and other sorts of power. We hope algae -- including some produced by the start-up Huntington firm -- someday contributes to the transition.

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