In spite of the efforts of politicians to tout corn as the answer to the United States' oil import problems, it really isn't a very efficient solution. The amount of energy that can be extracted from corn in the form of ethanol is substantially less than amount energy that must be put in to produce it. A new research report is showing progress in producing biodiesel from algae. Corn can produce the equivelant of 18 gallons of oil per acre per year. Researchers at GreenFuel Technologies in Cambridge, MA is field testing a BioReactor that uses the carbon dioxide in the exhaust flue gas from a power plant to feed the algae. The exhaust gases are passed through a structure where the carbon is absorbed by the algae. The remaining exhaust has the carbon dioxide concentration reduced by 50-80 percent on cloudy/sunny days. They claim that they can produce the equivant of 5,000 to 15,000 gallons of oil per acre per year.
If this can be made to work on a large scale it could make a real dent in crude oil consumption and dramatically reduce emissions from power plants. The fuel produced from the algae could even be used to power the plant itself. If this is combined with more smaller power plants it could also help to support large scale deployments of electric vehicles. Bring on my Tesla and an algae bio-reactor!
[Source: Permaculture Activist]