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Slimy, Green Algae Could Power Our Cars in the Future

Why are scientist around the country exploring the potential of algae as a biofuel? What could be the advantages to using algae as a biofuel, instead of using crop-based sources like corn and sugar?

Slimy, Green Algae Could Power Our Cars in the Future

Audio file will be posted shortly.

Tom Fudge: The scientific and commercial question of the 20th century may be: how do we stop relying on oil as our major source of energy? The high demand for and relative shortage of oil supplies and pumping capacity is driving the price higher and higher. And the burning of petroleum products is altering our atmosphere through global warming and threatening environmental calamity. There's no magic bullet in the battle to replace petroleum. But biofuels seem to be one of the promising possibilities.


The problem with biofuels is the most commonly used plants, being turned into vehicle fuel, are corn and sugar cane. They are part of our food supply and there's always a danger of food becoming scarce. Also, the production of corn and sugar-based ethanol requires heavy inputs, fertilizer, and production processes. In the case of sugar cane production, it's resulted in clearing of rain forest.

That's why so many people are looking to algae as the biofuel motherload. We don't have to eat it. It grows in any wetland, even in salt water, and it consumes nutrients that are considered water pollution. But how do you make it run you car?


  • Stephen Mayfield , professor in the Cell Biology Department at The Scripps Research Institute.