Saturday, July 04, 2009

Algae Jet Fuel - Happy 4th of July!

AP Photo - In this Thursday, June 11, 2009 photo, sunlight from a solar collector on the roof of Utah State University's Energy Laboratory in Logan, Utah, is sent through fiber optics to stimulate the growth of algae. Earlier this year, USU was among several institutions to receive grant money from the U.S. Department of Defense to research ways to convert algae into biofuels for military jets. Utah State is examining about 300 algae species, including some from the Great Salt Lake in search of one that grows fast and produces plenty of fatty oils. (AP Photo/Colin Braley)

By MIKE STARK - Associated Press Writer
Somewhere among the beakers and the bubbling green-tinged tanks in this Utah State University lab, Jeff Muhs is searching for champion pond scum for Uncle Sam.

If he and others like him around the country are successful, algae-based biofuel could one day power one of the world's biggest gas guzzlers: the U.S. military.

Heady stuff for a simple sun-sucking organism. But algae's ability to grow fast and churn out fatty oils makes it an alluring prospect for a military looking to lessen its dependence on foreign oil.

"It inherently makes sense to start there," said Muhs, who runs Utah State's energy lab.

Work at the lab is part of a Pentagon project aimed at fast-tracking research to eventually produce algae-based biofuel that costs less than $3 per gallon, can be produced at a rate of 50 million gallons per year and meets strict military standards.

"We believe it's possible. We wouldn't invest in it if we didn't," said Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, the Defense Department's main research arm.

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