Ethanol has its supporters and critics. Critics focus on the inefficiency in converting corn into ethanol. The amount of water and energy used to make ethanol from corn is criticized, as is diverting it from providing food for people. Biofuel’s are a hot subject, and are being extracted from corn, algae, and even spent cooking oil. Now there may be a new solution to finding a bio based fuel that does not take food away from people – seaweed, primarily kelp. Kelp has a high rate of growth and its decay is quite efficient in yielding methane, as well as sugars that can be converted into ethanol. Seaweed may prove a viable future biofuel especially if harvested in summer. However the suitability of its chemical composition varies on a seasonal basis. Harvesting the kelp in July when carbohydrate levels are at their highest would ensure optimal sugar release for biofuel production. Kelp has a very high growth rate, growing one and half feet per day, obtaining heights that range from 70 to 160 feet. Harvesting the surface canopies of kelp forests can keep the plants vibrant and provide us with a sustainable fuel source without using water resources and fertilizers to grow them. Land areas can be used for planting food for people, instead of diverting current crops for ethanol. Kelp can produce more biomass than land based crops can according to scientists. This find can be a significant game changer for biofuel technologies.
Photo Credit: Underwater Photography Guide