For water enthusiasts, from fisherman to boaters to swimmers to picnickers, the news is simply too good to be true - scientists in the burgeoning renewable energy field say they can make fuel out of algae.
That's right. That stinky, slimy, disgusting plant-life scum that adorns our lakes, ponds, seas, and bays could be a lucrative crop in the production of biofuels.
Scentists already have developed a process that extracts the oil from algae and converts it into biodiesel fuel. The algae oil offers the excited researchers a third option as a biodiesel feedstock, after soybean oil and animal fats.
In addition, scientists are working on a process that will take a byproduct of algae after the oil is extracted and convert it into a high-protein human food additive!
Soybean oil, the basic feedstock for biodiesel, has doubled in price in the last 18 months, eroding biodiesel plants' profitability and forcing plant shutdowns, or delays at other facilities under construction. The proposed biodiesel plant west of Cleghorn is an example of such construction delays caused by the soaring soybean oil prices.
Now, reseachers are focusing on "pond scum" algae for biodiesel. It is plentiful and an eyesore and traffic killer on our waters. While it takes a year to grow another crop of soybeans, you can have a new generation of algae in about a week, according to researchers.
So, in the future we may see algae farms popping up all over. Iowa alone uses about 600 million galons of diesel fuel each year, with one pound of algae required for each gallon of biodiesel. That adds up to a lot of pond scum.
And algae is green, the color of money.