Aarani Arulmoli 11/11/13
It’s no secret that in order to achieve energy independence, America needs a diverse, reliable, and balanced energy portfolio. Algal biofuels in particular could prove to be an important part of that portfolio. Algae have been extensively pursued for many years as a source for renewable fuel due to their high oil content, efficient growth rates, and potential to be cultivated on non-arable land with non-potable water all while recycling CO2 and promoting a cleaner environment. More recent advancements in research and development in the algae industry have foreshadowed that turning algae into sustainable fuel at commercial scale could become reality in the near future. It’s no wonder Congress has taken an avid interest in these developments.
Last week, a bipartisan group led by Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ) launched the Congressional Algae Caucus to promote discussion about the nascent algae industry among Members of Congress. The effort is widely lauded by proponents of the industry including the Algae Biomass Organization and the Biotechnology Industry Organization due to the unparalleled opportunity to educate Representatives on the numerous environmental and economic benefits of algae-derived products. Members of the caucus include Representatives from California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
“Algae-based products deserve a chance to compete on a level playing field with other technologies,” said Rep. Matt Salmon. “In my own state we are already seeing the economic development that is possible from a thriving algae sector, from jobs to research and development. High tech jobs will help grow our economy and through this caucus, I hope to draw attention to the great economic and environmental benefits of algae production.”
The environmental and economic benefits of algae-derived products that Rep. Salmon points to are staggering. According to a peer-reviewed study in Bioresource Technology, algal biofuels can reduce life cycle CO2 emissions by 50-70% compared to petroleum and are swiftly advancing toward matching conventional petroleum’s “Energy Return On Investment.” Through production of such environmentally sound alternative fuels, the industry will create numerous jobs for Americans without depleting increasingly precious domestic resources like agricultural land or freshwater. Many algae companies are already in the construction phase of their commercial scale facilities and the industry is poised to transform America’s energy sector.
Diversifying America’s energy portfolio with clean, renewable fuel has become an increasingly important focus for our country. The caucus will play a key role in reaching this goal by taking the appropriate steps to endorse favorable algal biofuel policies. Representatives Scott Peters and Matt Salmon realize the immense potential of algae to improve and expand America’s energy portfolio. With this mounting congressional support, the algae industry could emerge as a leader in the pursuit of our nation’s energy independence.
Aarani Arulmoli is a recent graduate of the University of California, San Diego where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Systems: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. She is currently pursuing her interest in the renewable energy field as an intern at ACORE.