The U.S. military, with significant funding from the U.S. government, has begun testing the possibility of using green algae as a fuel source for jets and warships.
According to reports, scientists from Solazyme are working to bioengineer green algae so that it can be easily and efficiently made into fuel for the military. The Associated Press explained the process simply – “The sun's energy, which is stored in the plants, is transformed by the hungry algae into oil, which can be refined into jet fuel, bio-diesel, cooking oil or even cosmetics.”
Solazyme received an order for more than 150,000 gallons of fuel produced in this manner from the U.S. military, and received an additional US$21 million grant from the Department of Energy to continue developing the renewable resource.
The military has recently taken the forefront in the push for renewable energy in the United States, and claimed they would like to see at least 50% of their fleets powered by renewable sources by the year 2020. The Navy is a bit more ambitious, and says that it will have it’s entire non-nuclear fleet tested with the algae fuel in the next two years.
The use of algae as fuel is a concept that has been around for more than 40 years. As the AP points out,
“The U.S. government's interest in algae fuels is nothing new. The first spike in attention to algae's potential for making oil spiked in the 1970s as a response to the energy crisis. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been researching algae oils and fuels since the 1980s, but in the 1990s the effort was curtailed as petroleum prices dropped and algae fuels were considered too costly to compete.”
While there is still a lot of research to be conducted before the green algae is ready for permanent use, the U.S. military is taking significant steps in the right direction.
Image credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Devon Dow/Released, U.S. Navy
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