The Oil of the Future

by Nick Livermore

It’s a given that the Earth contains a finite amount of natural resources that we use to power our increasingly energy-dependent lives. Scientists are constantly researching forms of renewable, clean and efficient methods of generating a host of fuels we require to power society. One of the most exciting of these is…. algae!

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using algae as a fuel source. As Triple Pundit points out:


  • Bio-based fuel with essentially carbon neutral combustion
  • Drop in replacement for petroleum-based liquid fuels
  • Inherently renewable
  • Absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows
  • Both waste CO2 and wastewater can be used as nutrients
  • Higher energy per-acre than other bio-fuels
  • Can be grown on land unsuitable for other types of agriculture
  • Scalable: Study found that 17 percent of U.S. oil imports could be met with algae
  • Investments are being made
  • Production is presently scaling up (Navy buying 100,000 gallons this year)
  • Research has been underway for 50 years


  • Need to be grown under controlled temperature conditions
  • Requires a considerable amount of land and water
  • Cold flow issues with algal biofuel
  • Some researchers using genetic engineering to develop optimal algae strains
  • Requires phosphorus as a fertilizer which is becoming scarce
  • Fertilizer production is carbon dependent
  • Relatively high upfront capital costs
  • Not clear yet what the ultimate cost per gallon will be. Presently too high.

Would you be willing to pay more per gallon to fill your tank with algae fuel if it was a cleaner environmental solution?

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