ENVIRONMENT
03/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

For Algae's Next Trick, It Will Clean Up The World

If you've been at the bottom of the food chain for millions of years, you'd better have a few tricks up your sleeve. Algae, the tiny green plants without which the world would be a mess, may just save the world, says Reuters:

In the distant past, algae helped turn the earth's then inhospitable atmosphere into one that could support modern life through photosynthesis, which plants use to turn carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars and oxygen.

The race is now on to find economic ways to turn algae, one of the planet's oldest life forms, into vegetable oil that can be made into biodiesel, jet fuel, other fuels and plastic products.

"So we are harvesting sunshine directly using algae, then we are extracting that stored energy in the form of oil from the alga and then using that to make fuels and other non-petroleum based products," Skill said.

(See also: Reuters video on algae-based fuel with lots of labcoats and vials of green stuff.)

And sure, algae can do all of that. In fact, people have been working on it for a long time. The US Air Force wants to use algae-based fuels. Farms are springing up to make "biocrude" from algae.

It's just that right now, the technology isn't up to snuff. But that's what R&D is for.

Related:

::5 Things You Didn't Know Were Biofuels
::Algae: Biofuel, Cooking Oil, Health Supplement