Proponents of algae biofuels have stressed its low environmental impact, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced dependence on foreign oil, and utilization of marginal lands. However, a recent report from the U.S. National Research Council has found that algae biofuels cannot currently be produced on a large scale without using unsustainable amounts of energy, water, and fertilizer – exactly the kinds of impacts algae biofuel production was intended to avoid.
Notwithstanding this, the report’s authors do not write off the technology. Jen Stutsman of the Department of Energy said in a statement “[The] report outlines the need for continued research and development to make algal biofuel sustainable and cost-competitive, but it also highlights the long-term potential of this technology and why it is worth pursuing.”
Algae biofuels have received government support, such as $100 million in grants and loan guarantees to help build a plant in New Mexico, and the development of the U.S. Navy’s Green Fleet. The report indicates that continued financial investment will be necessary to reach sustainable algae biofuel production.
What policy approach makes the most sense with respect to sustainable algae biofuel production?