Algae Producers Strike Back, Dispute Poor Enviro-Performance Study

algae biofuels photo

photo: Sustainable Initiatives Fund Trust via flickr.

At the end of last week researchers from the University of Virginia dropped a bombshell on the algae biofuel industry, producing an algae life-cycle analysis which had it not faring so well against first generation biofuels, being more water intensive and producing more greenhouses gases. Well, the algae industry has come back swinging (as one might expect). Biofuels Digest trots out an array of quotes from algae industry execs:The main complaint seems to be that the U.Va. researchers relied too much on older data, some going back to the 1970s and 80s, and not enough on data showing recent industry advances.

Sapphire Energy's Tim Zink compared it to using computers from the 1970s to describe what you could do today using the your mobile phone. More bitingly Zink described it as "a weak attempt by people with no experience in evaluating the engineering of algae. The real impacts are very dissimilar."

I wonder if that's the same industry insider that Biofuels Digest quoted (unattributed) saying that their was some sour grapes involved because the researchers' own favored methods for algae production didn't get funding by the Dept. of Energy.

The U.Va. study said the impacts of algae production could be mitigated by co-locating algae plants with wastewater treatment plants, using nutrients taken from that to replace upstream inputs otherwise derived from fossil fuels.

Algal Biomass Organization executive director summed up the rebuttal reaction:

Nothing that we have in our collective experience suggests that the performance of open-pond systems today is comparable to the performance data cited in the article.

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