Friday, 14 February 2014

Seaweed fuel source

Could seaweed replace fossil fuels as our primary fuel source?

Seaweed is a common, seemingly inexhaustible resource may be an answer to the impending decline in fossil fuel supplies. A report published in the journal 'Science' details how a team at the Bio Architecture Lab in Berkeley, California, modified the common gut bacteria E. Coli to breakdown seaweed and produce ethanol.

The potential of this untapped energy source is considerable. The United Kingdom, coastline, is in a good position to develop seaweed as a low-carbon fuel alternative. What makes seaweed special, is that when compare to land grown biofuels such as corn, sugar cane or palm oil it can produce up to four times as much ethanol per unit. 

More than anything else, it will  create an alternative crop to those grown in tropical regions where slash and burn of the forest is rife. Just to create sterile monoculture crops to the detriment of the forest animals. Because the crop will be easier and cheaper to process. The debate over ‘food-versus-fuel’ debate, will be rendered irelevant.

In a curious change of direction away from the more usual habitat destruction. Large scale seaweed farming could have a significant positive effect upon costal habitat creation.

Yong-Su Jin of the Institute for Genomic Biology has identified the use of arable land to produce biofuel as a cause of skyrocketing food prices and of extensive environmental damage. He said "We still face a technical gap for large-scale cultivation. Costs would have to come down before this process could become commercially competitive with ordinary fossil fuels. Though economies of scale should kick in as the scale of production ramps up."

Another factor to consider is how best to ensure a proper ecological balance in areas that could contain large-scale seaweed farming. However, if pilot projects already underway in the U.K. and in development off the coast of Chile prove successful, seaweed could well be a much needed stepping stone toward a multi-sourced sustainable energy economy.

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