Tilapia farming, photo: Andy via flickr.
LiveFuels thinks it knows the way around making expensive algae biofuel production equipment and scaling that up for commercial production, raise fish to eat the algae and store it in their organs, and then kill the fish to get the oil. Thankfully this one's in the early stages and commercial production isn't imminent:Greentech Media reports that the plans are a new direction for San Carlos, California-based company -- which had previously worked with algae in open ponds.
Here's how LiveFuels touts the benefits of using fish:
Harvesting: Biomass concentration as nature intended itConventional machinery is unable to harvest microscopic algae from large volumes of water at low cost. To harvest algae, LiveFuels uses a natural mixture of oil-rich "algae grazers," such as filter-feeding fish species, in place of expensive and energy-intensive mechanical equipment. This approach eliminates significant capital and operating costs, while providing a scalable system for harvesting large quantities of algae.
Currently, our research focuses on ecosystem and life cycle modeling in order to achieve the optimal growth of aquatic organisms.
How Many Fish Make a Gallon of Fuel?
I'm going to ignore the 'as nature intended it part' and move on to the practical/ethical problem with all this.
Assuming LiveFuels works out the technical kinks, how many fish would we have to raise in ponds, deal with the waste from that, and then kill, just to power our cars, buses and airplanes?
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics tells me that in 2007, all the registered passenger vehicles in the US (cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles) consumed a bit over 176
million billion gallons of fuel. That's not including commercial vehicles, nor airplanes. How many fish make a gallon of fuel?
This whole thing just strikes me as grossly unethical, not to mention absurd.
Killing Animals to Power Our Cars? Have We Lost the Plot?
Raising animals in factory farms is a gigantic environmental and ethical problem -- there are simply better, more humane and environmental friendly, ways for humans to power their bodies.
Raising animals (even animals with admittedly lower intelligence, but life deserving of respect nonetheless) just to power devices so humans can avoid using their natural means of locomotion -- or develop ways to power these devices that don't involve killing millions of animals directly for fuel -- may be even worse.
More: LiveFuels Inc
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New Algae Biofuel from Sapphire Energy "Chemically Identical to Gasoline"