Bulletin Board
Rants, Raves, Interesting Science & Awful Puns
March 23, 2005


fuel from algae

Dave Durgee referred me to an interesting piece at www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/research_index.html that talks about the advantages of biologically synthesized fuel from algae over the "hydrogen economy" popularized from certain quarters in recent years. In an earlier posting, I discussed why hydrogen is actually an energy storage medium not a source, since its extraction requires more energy than that ultimately delivered, and presents horrendous storage and distribution problems of its own, making it a long-term possibility at best. The biodiesel alternative offers a genuine energy source, at the same time enabling the existing infrastructure for the distribution of automobile and other liquid fuels to remain in place.

The process described envisages algae farms and makes the obligatory concession to "renewable" solar and windmill sources for the required processing energy, neither of which I consider viable or desirable as a large-scale means of supporting an advanced industrial economy. A highly concentrated energy source such as nuclear would provide a much more effective means of producing a synthetic diesel fuel of the kind advocated. The ideal realization might be in combination with an automated reactor producing electricity as a by-product.

The prime motivation cited is the need for energy independence from tyrants and oppressive regimes. I consider this to be a needlessly self-inflicted problem resulting from the policies of British and other European powers, and later the US, through most of the 20th century. When the Ottoman Empire died at the end of World War I, relationships between the Arab world and the West were fine. The two were potentially ideal complementary partners in every respect, commercially, culturally, educationally, spiritually. The chances of such a future were killed by the usual lies, broken promises, and betrayals. But that's another story.

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