Biofuels Alliance Disputes Virginia Research

John Davis

A recent study by some University of Virginia researchers who say that algae might not be as environmentally friendly as some regular row crops when it comes to making biodiesel is coming under fire by algae and algal-biofuel organizations.

As you might remember from my post back on January 22, 2010, a study headed by Andres Clarens said that “algae’s environmental footprint is larger than other terrestrial crops.” But according to the executive director for the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (and several other groups that commented on that January 22 article), those Virginia researchers got it wrong. And NAABB’s Dr. Jose Olivares tells me that the main problem is in the fact that Clarens used data that just is not current anymore.

“A lot of [the data] came out during the aquatic species program, which ran for quite a few years, but ended in the early [1990s].”

He says that old data doesn’t account for the technological advances made in the last 15+ years that have cut algae oil’s production’s energy usage by 100 fold, while creating an environmental footprint for algae that is 20-100 times smaller than row crops.

[There’s] a huge danger of misinterpreting what is possible with these types of technologies.”

Olivares points out that there are some positive aspects of the Virginia study, including pointing out that algae can be grown using wastewater … which Olivares says the algal-biofuel industry is already doing.

You can hear more of my conversation with Dr. Olivares below.

algae, Audio, Biodiesel