EPA: Algae as Advanced Biofuel
EPA will count algae as an advanced biofuel in the renewable fuels standard, responding to the growing interest, encouraged by Exxon Mobil and Dow Chemical. Exxon announced its plans to invest $600 million partnering with Synthetic Genomics, and Dow will partner with Algenol Biofuels.
Biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol, sugar-cane ethanol and even biodiesel were envisioned in the RFS – but algae was absent.
Why do EPA’s steps towards including algae matter? Because when Congress created its mandate to blend advanced biofuel into the fuel pool, it created a big market for these fuels. By 2012, the law mandates that two billion gallons of these advanced biofuels be blended, a figure that rises by tenfold by 2022. It’s all in Section 202 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Algae is considered to be a "promising feedstock", said EPA fuels official Sarah Dunham.
Algae is a particularly tempting feedstock choice because it can be engineered to sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and because algae-based biofuel has a similar molecular structure to gasoline, allowing it to be used in the existing transportation infrastructure.
Advancement in algae-based biofuels are expected to supplement or replace corn-based ethanol. Other research firms are actively in developing commercially viable models. Joule Biotechnologies claims to have developed a microorganism which converts carbon dioxide into ethanol through photosynthesis. They also claim that their first Solar Converter will be operational by 2010.
All these may sound too good to be true, and these claims are indeed confronted with skepticism by the green community. Only time will tell if these claims will ever materialize.