Wednesday, 16 July 2008

I call "I told you so": Algae are really useful

Algae a possible saviour in climate change fight (ABC News Online)

So, right away a possible very cool development in industrial science has been highcapped by the media frenzy issue du jour, but let's be charitable and look past that and examine the article.

Which lists a number of possible uses being explored for algae, including starting as sinks directly on high-CO2 industrial gases, then one or several of carbon sequestration, high-yield biomass for feedback and biofuel, fertiliser...

I call "I told you so."

I don't expect you to believe me, but I've been wondering why they haven't been doing this for, oh, years now. In fact, Isaac Asimov proposed in one or several stories that we can (need to) feed the human race using yeast engineered for appropriate and complete carbohydrates/protein etc. It's efficient because you eat everything, there's no energy lost in maturing a large animal, and the turnover is practically instantaneous.

Ever heard how phosphates in sewerage and runoff frequently cause massive algal blooms and associated problems, including de-oxygenated water killing fish? Well, why not pump the sewarage into ponds containing beneficial algae (feedback, biomass for ethanol production since we're apparently committed to it...) and use all the fucking phosphates?

In recent weeks news reached us of e-coli (the biologist's swiss-army bacterium, because we've studied it backwards by now) engineered to produce hydrocarbons, thereby short-circuiting the take-biomass-and-turn-it-into-ethanol-using-extra-industrial-processes process, also possibly producing something which is better for engines and using as fuel than ethanol is. Which is very cool. Hell, what do you think fermenting alcohol is but using bio-organisms to do our dirty work for us?

I'm all for this, really I am. And I'm excited that it's now hit mass media, instead of just the science press with the odd weird science moment hitting the news media. I'm cynical about the "ground-breaking" language used in that report but hey - I'll give them a pass this time.

Link to ABC article.
Link to Weird Science on IMDB, just because I can.

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