THE BLOG
07/30/2013 05:05 pm ET | Updated Sep 29, 2013

Is (Yucky) Algae the Future of Biofuels?

The world's algae can provide a reliable and efficient source of power and energy, without the side effects that other fuels have on our environment, and on our wallet.

After one more disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to more oil leaks on our shores, scientists are insisting again that we finally accept other sources of energy and use what comes naturally to us: algae. It's plentiful, organic, cheap and always there. A hope for a cleaner future.

NASA scientist Dr. Jonathan Trent has created the OMEGA Method to grow algae specifically for biofuel (OMEGA stands for Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae). Several countries are already spending big budget monies on biofuels, as their governments believe this is a way and a target for the only cleaner future they can foresee, and the way to shrinking dependency on oil and oil-producing countries.

Dr. Trent states that "Biofuels could be a long term sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, but only if they are produced in sufficient quantities to meet the demand, with a price at the pump that people will tolerate, and without competing with agriculture for water, fertilizer, or land."

So why is our space agency interested in algae? NASA has spent a lot of time and money on life-support systems that would allow humans to go places totally inhospitable, such as outer-space, the Moon or the planet Mars. In case we ever need to go there, and stay.

The OMEGA system is made of flexible tubes, looking like giant plastic straws floating in seawater, using energy from the sun. The fuel the algae produces could someday in the near future reduce the emission of green house gas, replace fossil fuels, and increasing national security in the process. A vast and uplifting challenge.

And by the way, these microscopic algae are among the fastest growing plants on the planet. OMEGA farms could be the answer.