Where's the algae?
Biofuels Digest
April 12, 2016

Hello BEST Community,

This week in the Bioenergy and Sustainability School we've been taking a look into the industrial applications of algae. Thus far we've taken a look into the potential for creating various products from algae. Everything from oil to plastics have been discussed in the week thus far. However, today, as our week draws near a close, we take a look at the other side of the industrial applications of algae. That is to say, today we look not at the products that can be produced from algae harvesting, but instead we look at the benefits of using algae in an industrial setting.

The primary benefit to utilizing algae in an industrial setting is that in addition to having such wide applications in terms of products, algae is still at its core a plant based organism and as such requires CO2 to undergo photosynthesis. As such, creating algae ponds and placing them at sites that produce large amounts of CO2, such as a power plant that burns coal or natural gas, the resulting potentially harmful CO2 can be re-purposed. The gas that would ordinarily be sent out into the atmosphere to further upset the carbon cycle, can instead be piped into the ponds to serve as nutrients for growing the algae.

Unfortunately, CO2 capturing is not yet a perfect process, and it is still a considerable challenge to sequester a large percentage of what is produced from standard coal burning. However, there is hope. On the week of April 12th, 2016, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse introduced an amendment that would provide tax credit incentives to organizations that adopt the use of carbon capture and sequestration technologies. A change in policy that provides a fiscal incentive can only send CO2 capture technology to greater heights. The amendment is presently in a state of limbo, but the fact that such specific language in favor of CO2 capture managed to make its way to the senate floor is in itself a considerable step forward.

Joshua Goff
Undergraduate Intern
2016 BioEnergy & Sustainability School
Soil and Water Science Department
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