Photo: DoE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Seemingly perpetually just over the commercially-viable horizon, algae biofuels consistently show good potential both in terms of yield and not competing with food production to the extent that other feedstocks can. But they are nevertheless water intensive--not an insignificant concern considering projections of decreased water availability across parts of the US and in many parts of the world.
So, without sucking up absolutely all the water from agriculture and all the other important things water is connected to (everything...), how much of current imported oil demand could be replaced with algae biofuels? According to new research at the Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory the answer to that question is 17% of 2008 levels. It would take an area of land the size of South Carolina to do so and 350 gallons of water per gallon of fuel. In total, that'd be one quarter of all the water the US currently uses for irrigated agriculture.
If water and land use was increased, just under half of current US oil imports could be met with domestically-produced algae biofuels, the report found. But if you concentrated production only in those places where it is both sunniest and most humid so as to minimize environmental impact, the lower figure results.
Read more: Science Daily or, the original research: National microalgae biofuel production potential and resource demand
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