Obama's Algae Oil Plan Is A Scam?
The United States consumes about 140 billion gallons per year of motor gasoline. Assuming algae can produce 3,000 gallons of liquid fuel per acre in a year, it would take around 45 million acres of algae to provide 100 percent of our motor gasoline requirements.[v] That is about the size of North Dakota, our 19 largest state. While we have plenty of land in the United States, the huge algae reactors or open algae ponds that need large areas of sunshine for production found in the southern United States would need to be co-located with large industrial centers that are a source of carbon dioxide found more in the northern parts of the United States.[vi]
President Obama’s program is not as ambitious since he is suggesting replacing only 17 percent of the petroleum that the United States imported for transportation fuel in 2008, about 21 billion gallons. According to the authors of a study from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, growing that amount of algae would require land roughly the size of South Carolina, our 40th largest state, and 350 gallons of water for each gallon of algal oil. That is about 25 percent of the water we currently use for crop irrigation, and is similar to the amount we use for ethanol production.[vii] The question is the availability of that amount of water and where to locate the plants to get it and still have the needed sunlight and access to carbon dioxide. Thus, even if technical barriers to algae production and harvesting are overcome, other barriers still exist.
Note that the land mass requirements in the above two studies differs, most likely based on the amount of liquid fuel algae can produce per acre, which may be the result of the type of technology used. The second study is using a much lower number for the amount of liquid fuel algae can produce per acre—about a third—of what the first study is using. That indicates that researchers are still a far way from knowing exactly what is feasible.
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