Skip to comments.Obama's algae energy euphoria: Is pond scum a green scam?
Posted on 05/07/2012 11:36:58 PM PDT by neverdem
Is there something fishy about algae? Is it the revolutionary new fuel source opportunity the Obama administration represents it to be?
Last February, in a University of Miami campaign speech intended to pacify prospective pump price-panicked patrons, the president said: "We're making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that's actually made from a plant-like substance, algae...You've got a lot of algae out there, right? If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we'll be doing all right. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17% of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel we can grow right here in America.
Like all other "revolutionary" green energy schemes, there's little that is really new in this idea. The first electric car in the U.S. was built by Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith in 1835; the first electricity-generating wind turbine was invented by Scottish academic James Blythe in 1887; Bell Labs created the photovoltaic solar cell in 1954; and the dream of producing fuels from algae dates back to the Carter administration in the late 1970s.
Remember how ethanol was going to save us from dependence on foreign oil imports? After four decades, huge mandates to force it on gasoline consumers, tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, and huge impacts upon food prices, it only represented about five percent of automotive fuel (by volume) in 2008. Biodiesel accounted for less than one percent of the diesel market that year.
But algae will be different...right? After all, doesn't it require lots less space than all those cornfields do...just some stagnant, shallow scummy ponds where it pretty much grows all by itself?
Well, maybe not exactly.
Yes, the basic science and principles involved in making fuels from algae are pretty simple. In theory...
(Excerpt) Read more at forbes.com ...
He’s always looking for new ways to funnel money to greenie socialists.. I guess the solar and wind farm trick has played its hand.
The short answer is, YES!
Anything that isn’t the old fuel is good fuel from a leftist perspective. Whether or not it is any good from a practical or energy sense is irrelevant. It’s all about tearing down the old America and building a leftist dung hole. Think of it as slow, torturous terrorism.
I don’t know. Is Dog Mange a cure for Leprosy?
...it’s like the Senate, government controlled scum.
But, according to fox, Newt had some far out ideas.
So which is it? Do we know how to develop this as a fuel or do we have to figure out how to make energy out of it? And where does he get the 17% from if we don't know how to do it?
That's like me saying: "I can increase the amount of gold in Fort Knox by 17% if we can just figure out how to turn garbage into gold." It is meaningless drivel.
83.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
The issue is getting the price down to the point that algae based fuels are economical without subsidy. That is attracting a lot of research effort, from private industry as well as government. In principle, production from algae is scaleable to industrial levels, doesn't require prime farmland, and doesn't require clean water. There are lots of places to put it, and the production potential is huge -- provided, again, that the cost can be reduced.
Algae, like ethanol, has the advantage of being compatible with internal combustion and diesel engines and the existing logistical system. (Yes, the engine manufacturers need to shift to conforming materials, but that is easily done. They should just do it.) Biofuels don't require a leap of faith to a whole new technology, such as electrics or hydrogen fuel cells. They can enter the market as additives and fuel extenders, and grow as production expands. Drill, frack, grow ... I don't much care, as long as we put OPEC out of business at reasonable cost, and to do that, I expect that we'll need all three. Ethanol now accounts for 10% of the U.S. gasoline supply by volume, and we're headed toward E15. If algae becomes price competitive, biofuels' market share will grow even more.
Presidents should not say such things without anchoring them in context. A figure like that, if unsupported, is indicative of inattention and incompetence on the part of the whole team. If there was an accompanying fact sheet laying out the assumptions and math, I retract the judgment. One would expect diligent reporters to have questioned such a figure, but that doesn't seem to much happen in the court of Obama.
Thanks for the reply, sphinx. Very informative. The key is in the economics then, and not so much the technology. Sounds promising.
I agree. It also indicates they believe their listening audience is not very bright. Which may be true for the most part. But it still bugs me.
The other thing that can drive the economics is the price of oil. Biofuels took off in the last decade as the price of oil rose from $20 to nearly $150 a barrel. A global recession has reduced demand, and fracking is usefully augmenting supply, but a price spike on oil could change the equation overnight.
Philosophically, I'd make the same argument about solar power. A lot of people on FR react reflexively against any favorable mention of solar. This is the understandable result of decades of trench warfare against greenies who are opposed to all conventional fuels and want to launch us into a solar future, on the basis of truly massive subsidies and much higher energy costs. And of course, I agree that such utopian schemes must be resisted.
But that said, enormous work has been done in the labs, and the costs of solar have come down dramatically. People need to pay attention to the current numbers. Solar is winning ever-larger markets for off-grid applications, and there are a number of solar technologies that could, at long last, emerge as game changers. I support robust research and modest investments in demonstration scale deployment. I would not be surprised if big changes happen in the future.
> Is pond scum a green scam?
You betcha !!!
Green Energy = A fruit that is not ready to be picked.
I think the article raises serious issues that put doubt on the entire algae process, even assuming it could be economic on a micro level. How many square feet of water surface and water volume will be needed. Where will the water come from and who want’s to donate their reservoir to pond scum? We will obviously be driven (assuming we ever get there) to creating enormous systems of artificial lakes (the size of a medium size state) and getting the water from somewhere. Who knows where?
Until good answers may be had for problems like that, subsidizing companies to produce algae energy seems stupid. Reducing spending seems like a much better idea to me.
A gentleman who purported to be running the biggest algae operation in the U.S. called Limbaugh a couple of weeks ago.
He peed all over the concept of algae as a major source of "green energy" -- pointing out how much land and water the operation would require to even provide 1% of our energy needs.
And 76.5437823% of those are expressed to an unreasonable level of precision.