Seaweed biofuels: a green alternative that might just save the planet

Fast growing, carbohydrate-rich kelps could supply green biofuels. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Source: The Guardian

Many millions of pounds are being invested in seaweed research from Vietnam to Israel to Chile because producing biofuels in the sea removes at a stroke many of the serious problems with conventional biofuels. Though important as greener alternatives to oil, many biofuels are produced from food crops, such as corn and sugar, which drives up global prices in a world where a billion people are already hungry. Biofuel production also consumes increasingly scarce freshwater and the worst examples – those from palm oil – can produce more carbon dioxide than diesel.

The environmental impact of large-scale seaweed farming is also being investigated but appears as likely to be positive as negative. Some phytoplankton may be outcompeted for nutrients, but the swathes of kelp may provide hatcheries for fish and compounds seaweed gives off in summer could sink and trap climate-warming carbon on the seabed.

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