Recent findings at the University of Virginia’s department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have caused increased scrutiny of current alternative energy procurement processes concerning algae.
Exxon Mobile’s $600 million investment for the research and development of biofuel in addition to the $78 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy, have propelled research efforts in the biofuel sector. This prompted assistant professor Andres Clarens, Lisa M. Colosi and others to examine and optimize current methods that use algae to produce biofuels.
The team of engineers quantitatively evaluated the carbon footprint of algae production and compared it to the carbon footprints of terrestrial crops. Their findings were quite significant. As it turns out, the production of algae requires more energy, more water, and produces higher amounts of greenhouse gases than several alternative biofuel sources.
However, instead of removing algae from the list of alternative fuel sources, the scientists proposed using wastewater as a resource for growing algae. Algae fields could be used as a purification system to both treat and clean waste water, while the water is being used as nutrients for the field.
As we continue to look forward and develop new and improved alternative energy sources, we are constantly reminded by fellow academics that with each new discovery comes the onus of extensive research. We must know the impacts of implementing any new biofuel system, and the advantages and disadvantages it will present beforehand, so that we may innovatively capture the benefits of as many new resources as possible, without jeopardizing those that we have left.
Discussion Question: Consider the trend of “green” movements to combine industrialized processes with green growth. How might apply these efforts to biofuel production?
News Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100121135856.htm
Journal Article : http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es902838n
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