Most biofuel in the world today is sourced from 1st generation crops like corn, sugarcane, soybean or other crops from traditional sources. In reality, most current biofuel sources are inadequate to meet rising global demands. In addition, much of current biofuel is derived from food products, needed to address hunger from the global food crisis.
One solution to producing biofuel, especially ethanol, without using crops that are usually designated as food, is to use algae. Algae, especially microalgae, production is becoming more and more economically feasible. This is because of its exceptionally rapid growth rate. Algae grow 20–30 times faster than many food crops, contain up to 30 times more fuel potential (in the form of oil) than soybean or even palm oil, and algae farms can be located anywhere.
One great feature of algae that makes it ideal for biofuel production is that up to 60% of its mass is oil. Another is that algae requires CO2 to grow, so it essentially sequesters CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows. Algae reproduce quickly, needing only sunlight and water, are non-toxic and biodegradable. As algae grows, the oil is harvested for fuel while the remaining green mass by-product can be used in fish and oyster farms.
Algaculture has proven, based on current algae production technologies, that it can provide future global energy needs while being economically viable and sustainable. Algae production also creates useful co-products, such as bio-fertilizers. If the production of these products is made part of the goal of algae farms, biofuel production from algae will become more economically competitive sooner. Algae offers a great source for a more sustainable transportation fuel, but also offers a range of other benefits and co-products, such as carbon sequestration and fertilizer.