I think the very best selling point of algae biodiesel is that research is being backed, strongly if quietly, by the oil companies. It has huge potential for profitability, low overhead, and scalability.
1) As soon as it is operational, it *consumes* the waste gases CO2 and Nitrous Oxides (NOx) that are otherwise expensive to dispose of. This means it is profitable from the very start. Companies will pay them to take these gases off their hands.
2) It uses cheap and reusable “gray water”, that only needs minimal filtering. Probably the most expensive part of the deal is keeping the water cool enough so that it is the optimal temperature range for algae.
3) Once the algae is harvested, it is squeezed to get out the about 50% of its weight that is vegetable oil. The leftover algae can be sold as animal fodder. The oil is then mixed with ethanol and lye, a catalyst which is also reusable. Then the biodiesel is filtered, and 1% petroleum diesel is added to it as a preservative.
4) Diesel engines are everywhere, and are scalable from motorcycle, to car, to truck, to train, and even to ship size. The engines just need minor modification to run on biodiesel instead of diesel. Gas stations all over the US that pump diesel already exist, so don’t have to be built or modified. Huge cost savings there.
No other form of fuel than gasoline comes close to diesel for low cost, high performance, and familiarity. The diesel engine is close to perfected.
Ditto. The potential is there. The costs still need to come down.
Re:17. On the yield potential, the back of the envelope figure that floated around a few years ago was that algae pencilled out at a potential of about 10,000 gallons an acre, compared to about 300 gallons an acre for corn ethanol. Those are old numbers; corn yields and the efficiency of ethanol conversion have increased, and I’d bet that the energy potential of the algae is increasing as well. Biotech means that nothing is static. I offer the admittedly dated figure just to suggest the order of magnitude and to indicate why so many in the research community are excited.
Algae has high potential and is scaleable. You don’t need prime farmland. And you can use a lot of water that is unfit for other purposes. If we’re serious about breaking OPEC and defunding the jihad, algae is certainly something we should be interested in. It’s not ready for prime time yet, but it’s probably closer than advanced batteries for electrics (high enough energy density for full electrics with adequate range), and much closer than fuel cells.
Fracking and expanded drilling are fine too, but they will still leave us heavily import dependent for oil (not natural gas).