Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The future is seaweed

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From Haaretz:

The dramatic increase in the price of fuel in recent years has succeeded where many environmental groups have failed: It convinced many firms around the world to seek alternative sources of energy. One of the cheapest alternatives, already commercially available, is the production of fuel from a variety of agricultural produce, mostly corn.

However, the increase in the demand for corn has also caused a significant price hike and developing nations' populations are experiencing difficulties obtaining corn for consumption.

It is now possible that new technology may offer a solution to the problem, which Israeli firm Seambiotic Ltd. revealed earlier this week. The technology allows the production of commercial quantities of fuel from a surprising source, one that will not undermine global food sources: seaweed.

Okay, I'm intrigued. How does it work?

The new technology unveiled by the firm at an international conference on marine biotechnology that opened on Sunday in Eilat, allows the industrial cultivation of seaweed through the use of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Instead of allowing the polluting gas -- one of the main contributors to global warming -- to escape into the atmosphere, the gas passes through a filtration process and enters a pool, where it feeds microscopic seaweed. The seaweed is used to produce fuel.

Well, why not?

The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the point where global warming can be brought under control, where global temperatues can be stabilized and not inflated by reckless human behaviour, requires a multifaceted approach that includes cleaner cars, carbon trading, renewable energy sources, and precisely this sort of outside-the-box innovation.

I hope it works.

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