Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oceans to Fuel Auto Addiction

I’m not sure what to think of this. It seems like another excuse to mine the sea. In the frenzy to develop alternative fuels, a group in Korea have learned how to turn algae and seaweed into bio-ethanol.

The pluses: This innovation shifts the bio-fuel pressure from agricultural land to the sea, leaving food production areas to feed a hungry world. They also say that the sea based bio-fuel plants grow 6 times as fast as land based biomass. As well, algae and seaweed do not contain lignin and require no pre-treatment before they can get processed into fuel. They also say sea plants absorb 7 times as much carbon dioxide as wood. (The logic in this statement is perplexing. They are proposing to mine the plants that help mitigate the effects of increasing carbon emissions.)

Detractions: The group – the Korean Institute of Technology suggests treating all sizes of algae, from the large kelp forests to single celled spirulina, using an enzyme to break them into simple sugars which get fermented into ethanol. In other words, every green thing that lives in the sea and provides habitat for creatures becomes a potential fuel to maintain our addiction to cars.

What do you think?


  1. My feeling is that this type of development is necessary and inevitable and we all have to play a vigilant advocacy role to make sure it is done right. We need to support creative solutions to the climate crisis and harnessing the sun in this way surely has benefits- we need to make sure our environment and communities truly come out ahead.

  2. This is a great question and I think we should all think about it as the sea is being touted by many as the greatest source of biofuels the world has. We need with full community engagement in the process and appropriate environmental assessments at all stages. We need to support all creative solutions to the climate crisis and harnessing the sun in this way surely has benefits- we need to check the other side of the coin.

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