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Got Salt Water? Algae Biofuels’ Sustainability Advantage

A new study from UC-San Diego shows that algae can be grown in salt water and be just as effective producers of biofuels as they would in fresh water.

Since using water supplies for fuel production is a major concern for any energy crop, the new findings show a big advantage for those looking to harness the power of algae in the hunt for renewable supplies of diesel, gasoline, jet fuel and ethanol.

The latest research also answers one of the key questions asked by the National Academies of Sciences their recent report on the sustainability concerns that will come with large-scale algae production. The NAS committee highlighted the possible impacts on freshwater that big algae farms might have, but in the words of Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, who headed the research project:

“What this means is that you can use ocean water to grow the algae that will be used to produce biofuels. And once you can use ocean water, you are no longer limited by the constraints associated with fresh water. Ocean water is simply not a limited resource on this planet.”

ABO’s statement, which also notes a recent PNNL study that found sufficient saltwater and land resources already exist in the U.S., can be found here.

For more on the story check out Biofuels Digest and Greenwire (subscription required).

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