Scientists certainly are obsessed with biodiesel. A few days after launching Biomara, a project to extract biodiesel from Scottish seaweed and algae, we now read that researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University have developed a nanofarming technology that allows the extraction of biofuel from living algae without destroying them. Biofuel Review reports that “the process doesn’t harm the algae like other methods being developed, which helps reduce both production costs and the production cycle. Once the algal oil is extracted, a separate and proven solid catalyst from Catilin will be used to produce ASTM and EN certified biodiesel.”
Could be nice for the algae and even better for both, the rainforests and the poor: the forests being relieved from logging and the poor being saved from loosing food production cropland to biofuel plantations. Problem though: nanofarming algae still doesn’t get us away from our oil economy. All it does is contributing to the increase in the number of cars in places like India, China and anywhere else and therefore to greenhouse gases (despite biofuels producing less of them). And we will still pollute the environment through energy consuming industries involved in car manufacturing, and in the end the poor and the forests will suffer anyway because the overall consumption of oil will increase.
Biofuels are not the solution to end global warming, the destruction of our environment and the elimination of poverty; biofuel research is just another way of pretending that climate change and global injustice can be fixed technologically rather than through a profound paradigm change.
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