It's been a few years since the race to make biofuel from algae really heated up. Today more than 50 companies are trying to find a way to affordably squeeze oil from slime, and it seems like the golden age for these tiny autotrophs.
However, the hurdles to reach commercial production of algae-oil might be too great for many of these ventures. This spring a pioneer company, GreenFuel, shut down operations after running out of money while trying to make a commercially viable process. Even stranger, another promising startup called Livefuels has just announced that it is making a bizarre change in its method. Instead of continuing to develop efficient ways to extract oil from algae, Livefuels is now going to feed their algae to fish and then squeeze the fish to get the oil.
That's right... Squeeze the fish.
It's unclear how much more efficient it might be to produce oil from fish who eat algae than from algae itself. But the fish bypass some of the high costs of algae biofuel: the equipment and energy needed to filter algae from the water and squish out the oil. At the same time, you don't have the luxury of reusing your fish. (Algae can be "milked" more than once.) The fish and "other aquatic herbivores" used by Livefuel will likely have to die.
Meanwhile, the field of algae fuels has high goals, few operations are actually producing any results. Solix, a company Popsci profiled in 2007, reported producing algae oil at about $33 a gallon, which very well might be the best possible right now. The newest venture on the block — a collaboration between Exxon Mobil and geneticist J. Craig Venter — has admitted that commercial viability is at least five to ten years off.
All said and done, the Exxon-Venter project and others suggest that with sufficient time and development, oil from algae should eventually be affordable.
Though if Livefuel is seriously moving into the fish-squeezing market at this point in the game, it can't bode well for vegetarians.
That is an Otocinclus, more commonly known as an Otto catfish. Great little fish for aquariums as they actually eat a ton of algae. Those, in conjunction with freshwater shrimp like cherry shrimp make a great algae busting team.
While this is not great news, it would be good to see more
follow up stories like this.
Energy is an important topic, but generally I can only find the news of yet another idea that will change the world.
I'd love to see a similar -- and maybe more detailed report on the solar power options and how they're progressing. I've read about more efficient cells using nano tech, focusing mirrors and various other concepts. How are they doing these days?
So let me get this straight, any company involved with ethanol gets bashed for turning a supposed food, (I say supposed because the field corn used to make ethanol is mostly fed to livestock not fed to people), but these guys get to squeeze fish and they think they're gonna get by just fine? I have a feeling there will be quite a backlash against growing animals for fuel. However, just in case there isn't, i'm gonna go get started on my process for squeezing oil out of cattle.
I am sure PETA this. I can't wait to hear what they think of fish squeezing.
"...will likely have to die"
Is this article written for kids or something? If they're squeezed enough to get oil out there's no way they'd live. In fact it would be pretty disturbing if they tried to keep them alive.
They just fish. Who cares if they live or die