Hearing with Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research
October 29, 2009
Longworth House Office Building
The Algae Biomass Organization represents stakeholders involved in the use of algal biomass for the production of next generation biofuels. The Algae Biomass Organization, as an industry trade association, is focused on facilitating the commercialization and market development of algal biomass, to produce fuels that have significantly reduced carbon emissions, compared with petroleum-based fuels, while beneficially reusing carbon dioxide from industrial and atmospheric sources. Algae are a sustainable, renewable feedstock that will help America become energy independent, and help our nation significantly reduce its carbon footprint.
“Third generation” algae-based fuels are different from first and second-generation fuels. Unlike first and second-generation biofuels, algae-based fuels are easily refined into hydrocarbons – including gas, diesel and jet fuel – and thus serve as a direct fossil fuel replacement. Algae-based fuels are also compatible with existing oil and pipeline infrastructure and engines. Additionally, algae-based fuels are not competitive with other biofuels, which can be blended with algae-based hydrocarbon fuels, making algae-based fuel a compatible, not competitive, technology.
Algae-based fuels are being successfully produced and tested today. Production timelines for the industry range from near- (1-2 years) to mid-term (5-8 years), proving that the algae-based fuel industry is ready to commercialize.
Why algae and why now?
Algae hold tremendous potential to play a key role in the development of a new energy economy – one driven by environmentally and economically sustainable fuel and power generation.
- Any commercially viable energy feedstock must be able to scale to meet national – and eventually global – energy needs. Algae are one of nature’s most efficient photosynthetic organisms, meaning that algae do not waste time doing anything but producing oil and growing. A single crop of algae can mature in as little as 7 days, making algae one of the fastest growing and most scalable energy feedstocks available.
- Algae are enormous consumers of CO2. Consequently, algae require abundant atmospheric and industrial-source CO2 in order to scale to significant levels. Algae beneficially reuse CO2 by turning it into fuels and other important commodities, thus strengthening our green economy while increasing America’s energy security.
- Algae can be grown on non-arable desert land, using non-potable salt or brackish water. Consequently, algae conserve precious agricultural resources, while providing exciting new opportunities for rural development.
- Algae-based fuels range from ethanol to biodiesel to drop-in transportation fuel, such as jet, diesel and gasoline, and can thus help the rest of the biofuel community meet our nation’s renewable biofuel mandates.
Significant progress has been made toward the commercialization of algae-based renewable fuels and their resultant co-products. Among companies, scientists, and the broader public, interest in algae as a resource for renewable energy continues to grow – and technological advances in the production of algal biomass combined with hundreds of millions of dollars invested this year in research and production have brought the industry much closer to commercialization and cost-efficient production of algal biomass.
Unfortunately, many of the federal government’s existing policies exempt algae from receiving benefits similar to those enjoyed by other biofuels.
Such oversight can be easily remedied if the government takes the following actions:
- Financial parity – Algae should receive the same tax incentives, subsidies and other financial benefits that other renewable fuels, particularly cellulosic biofuels, receive.
- RFS parity – Algae is currently excluded from the majority of the Renewable Fuel Standard, due to a 16 billion gallon carve out for cellulosic biofuels. The carve out should be changed so that it is technology neutral, thus allowing algae-based and other environmentally sustainable fuels to contribute to our nation’s efforts to become energy independent.
- Beneficial CO2 reuse recognition– Algae’s unique ability to turn CO2 into renewable fuels will allow the organism to play a significant role in abating carbon emitted by industrial sources. Consequently, algae’s beneficial reuse of CO2 should be acknowledged and accounted for in carbon capture and sequestration legislation.
Algae-based fuels will play a significant, near-term role in helping our nation meet its goals of transitioning to sustainable renewable fuels, improving our green economy, and increasing our nation’s energy independence.