For 18 years, the U.S. government studied algae as a source for biofuel, giving up over a decade ago because managing pond scum was just too hard.
Ah, but algae is just too efficient a source of oil to let it fizzle.
Plant physiologist and multiple patent holder Glen Kertz has figured out a way to manage algae growth and harvest.
Forget ponds. Place the algae in plastic bags and line them up vertically. Like corn, I guess.
Except that corn is amazingly inefficient at producing biofuel. Yeah, the government is subsidizing ethanol grown from corn. But farmers only get 20 gallons of fuel per acre per year. Kertz estimates 100,000 gallons per year from his method, which he calls Vertigro.
Vertical rows of algae-and-water bags move on conveyor belts to maximize sunlight. And, if this research pans out, it wonâ€™t be just algae moving, it will be Kertzâ€™s own wealth moving upwards.
The project is a joint venture with Global Green Solutions, a Canadian alternative energy company. Theyâ€™ve invested about $5 million in a Texas facility, where right now theyâ€™re trying to figure out which kind of algae makes which kind of biofuel best.
Now our government is getting involved in algae research, again. But weâ€™ve dumped so much money into scummy ponds, and on almost certain failures like corn ethanol, that at this point subsidy seems a waste.
This is Common Sense. Iâ€™m Paul Jacob.