The Science of Algae Biodiesel Explored on Nova

John Davis

NovaScienceNowOne of the benefits of doing this job is that I can do it from the comfort of my easy chair, while watching some of my favorite programs with one eye and searching for stories with the other (hey, God gave me two eyes… just consider it multi-tasking). But tonight, my eyes are firmly fixed on the tube, as one of my favorite programs, Nova Science Now, is featuring the really green fuel, algae biodiesel.

In this episode (on TV tonight but available on the PBS Nova Science Now Web site tomorrow, August 19th), they showed how algae is available everywhere, how the little green one-celled organisms actually turn sunlight into energy, and how to release that energy by making biodiesel out of the algae’s oil.

While the story was a good primer on how algae can be turned into biodiesel and how it will become a viable feedstock for fuel, I do have to take issue with the dig the show took on other biofuels, including corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel, are contributing to the food vs. fuel debate. Reporter Andrea Kissack made some pretty big leaps in her proclamations that those crop-based renewable fuels were causing food prices to spike and contributing to the destruction of the rain forests. It might have been nice if she could have talked to some folks who know that we can get both food and fuel from crops, while getting more and more from less and less land. But, this time, it was not to be.

I suggest you take a look at the story on Nova’s Web site and judge for yourself. And if you’d like to set the record straight, there’s even a place for feedback on the story.

algae, Biodiesel