Good news for the practice of using algae to produce fuel and other products. A report released today by the National Research Council examines the key sustainability issues related to scaling the algae industry.
The NRC correctly examined issues such as water, land-use, greenhouse gases and other concerns around sustainability and concluded: “The committee does not consider any one of these sustainability concerns a definitive barrier to sustainable development of algal biofuels because mitigation strategies for each of those concerns have been proposed and are being developed.”
The Algae Biomass Organization has issued a statement supporting this conclusion and detailing how the industry is already meeting the sustainability concerns raised in the NRC report.
The algae industry has a unique relationship to these sustainability issues because they are inexorably linked to the economic issues that will make an algae business successful. To make a algal fuels price-competitive with petroleum, algae producers must use the lowest cost inputs, and recycle them as much as possible. This means using saline or wastewater, recycling their fertilizers, and placing operations on lands that aren’t valued for other uses.
In short, the lowest cost algal fuels will also be the most sustainable.
ABO recognizes the NRC for its work to bring these issues to light, and hopes that the report sends a signal that algae-based fuels can, and will, be sustainable.