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Date Submitted: 06/05/2008 09:55 PM

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Widescale Biodiesel Production from Algae

Michael Briggs, University of New Hampshire, Physics Department

(revised August 2004)

As more evidence comes out daily of the ties between the leaders of petroleum producing countries and terrorists (not to mention the human rights abuses in their own countries), the incentive for finding an alternative to petroleum rises higher and higher. The environmental problems of petroleum have finally been surpassed by the strategic weakness of being dependent on a fuel that can only be purchased from tyrants. The economic strain on our country resulting from the $100-150 billion we spend every year buying oil from other nations, combined with the occasional need to use military might to protect and secure oil reserves our economy depends on just makes matters worse (and using military might for that purpose just adds to the anti-American sentiment that gives rise to terrorism). Clearly, developing alternatives to oil should be one of our nation's highest priorities.

In the United States, oil is primarily used for transportation - roughly two-thirds of all oil use, in fact. So, developing an alternative means of powering our cars, trucks, and buses would go a long way towards weaning us, and the world, off of oil. While the so-called "hydrogen economy" receives a lot of attention in the media, there are several very serious problems with using hydrogen as an automotive fuel. For automobiles, the best alternative at present is clearly biodiesel, a fuel that can be used in existing diesel engines with no changes, and is made from vegetable oils or animal fats rather than petroleum.

In this paper, I will first examine the possibilities of producing biodiesel on the scale necessary to replace all petroleum transportation fuels in the U.S.

I. How much biodiesel?

First, we need to understand exactly how much biodiesel would be needed to replace all petroleum transportation fuels. So, we need to start with how much...