Our thirst for oil to fuel our energy needs has resulted in ongoing political tensions between nations and severe environmental damage. Countless wars have been far as a result of the political and economic tensions fueled by our need for energy. Thankfully, scientists are hard at work locating alternative fuel sources that will be practical to implement and better for our environment.
There is one alternative fuel source that hasn't received as much attention as wind or solar power. This underappreciated potential new energy source is algae. Algae can be grown all over the planet and there is no practical limit to the amount that can be grown. Algae is a potentially efficient way to produce biodiesel, which can in theory replace fossil fuels in any process that burns fuels to produce energy. This includes being used in combustion engines used to propel planes, trains and automobiles, as well as the turbines used to generate the electricity we use in our homes and businesses.
The benefits of algae over oil are clear. Algae is infinitely renewable. Petroleum and other fossil fuels are depleting and will not be replaced. Any place that has water and sunlight is fit to grow algae. Among the hundreds of forms of algae that occur in nature, the type that creates the floating green layer on the surface of ponds is the one that is most efficiently converted to energy. Leftover material from the process of converting algae to biodiesel can be recycled into fertilizer or animal feedstock. This creates very little waste from the entire process and actually positively impacts the food supply unlike other crop-based fuels.
Large energy and even agricultural companies around the globe are starting to see the potential windfall that algae may represent in the area of energy production. At present the private sector is responsible for the bulk of research into algae-to-energy technology. Many renewable energy experts feel that research into algae as a source for biofuel is not being given enough attention and enough public funds. They feel that this is a tremendous opportunity to begin to break our dependence on fossil fuel energy sources.
Skeptics feel the deck may be stacked against algae; at least in the short term. There is a feeling that big oil companies have an economic incentive to realize every last bit of profit from oil even as the asset depletes. As oil supply continues its inevitable steady decline oil companies will be able to realized ever increasing profits from their product. Oil companies are well-positioned to make unprecedented amounts of profit from this endgame in oil as they can realize much higher margins from turning over less product.
The past century has been one of tremendous prosperity for human society. Such prosperity would not have been possible without the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels. But this period in human history must eventually transition to one fueled by sustainable energy technologies.
Proponents of algae as an alternative energy source say that perfecting this technology could have profoundly positive effects on the entire world.