Research Proposal

With the rising demand for a sustainable fuel source for transportation that reduces green house gas emissions, many people are turning to biofuels as a solution.  Currently, the United States’ majorly commercialized biofuel is corn ethanol and has posed several problems, indicating it is not a promising alternative fuel source.  Many scientists have begun focusing research on algal biofuels, looking to this photosynthetic plant as a solution.  Algae can be grown in a variety of habitats, has a high production of oil for a small area of growth, and its land use has little to no competition with agriculture.  While algal biofuels have the potential to solve the problems posed by ethanol, can the extraction of combustible oil from algae be utilized in an economic, energy efficient, and environmental way in order to replace the United States’ fossil fuel use for transportation?

In order for algal biofuels to be a major sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, the fuel must be energy efficient.  While algae produce great amounts of lipids and carbohydrates, which can be used for fuel, harnessing this oil is not so simple.  Scientists must come up with a way to reduce the energy requirement of extracting lipids in order for this fuel to sustain our energy needs.

Algal biofuels must provide strong incentives for an environmental movement in society’s energy culture.  An important aspect of sustainable energy is its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to reduce the anthropomorphic impact on global climate change.  Cultivating algae in massive amounts must also prove to not have underlying environmental effects on the surrounding ecosystems.  Also, the use of ponds or land for algal, although seemingly avoidable, must not prove to be competitive for agricultural land use.

Finally, if technology advances so that algal biofuels can be produced in a sustainable and environmental process, we must be sure that the process does not have significant economic issues.  For example, not only does the expense of algal biofuels need to be low in order to compete with fossil fuels, but also so other industries, such as the automobile, are not affected greatly.  The idealistic incorporation of algal biofuels on a bulk, commercial level must also prove to have little impact, or positive impacts on job growth in the United States.


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