An algae bloom in North Carolina, a region of the country equipped for broad-scale algae growth.
Credit: Courtesy of Ildar Sagdejev via PNNL
The United States could grow a whole lot more algae, and churn this pond scum into precious fuel, new research shows. A study by researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory calculated that the country has enough water resources to produce up to 25 billion gallons of algae-based fuel per year, which would be one-twelfth of the country's yearly needs, according to a statement from the lab.
The Gulf Coast and Southeast are particularly suitable for growing algae. "The Gulf Coast offers a good combination of warm temperatures, low evaporation, access to an abundance of water, and plenty of fuel-processing facilities," said hydrologist Mark Wigmosta in the statement.
The analysis, published in the May 7 issue of Environmental Science and Technology, shows that it is feasible to grow enough algae to make a dent in U.S. fuel consumption. And it's eliciting excitement in the industry. "Players in the algae biofuels arena range from Exxon-Mobil, which launched a $600 million research effort four years ago, to this year's teenage winner of the Intel Science Talent Search, who was recognized for her work developing algae that produce more oil than they normally do," the statement noted.