A sea change for biofuels
: peak oil, fresh water shortages, and food challenges are driving innovations in aquatic feedstocks

 May 2010

As we enter a new decade in 2010, leagues of prescient scientists , businessmen, politicians, commodity traders, defense hawks, activists, NGOs and social entrepreneurs are taking on future challenges by invoking ancient wisdom. Necessity is the mother of invention.  A sea change is coming to the global energy, food and water industries, bringing a new wave of opportunities for feedstock development.

Energy, water and food resources are interconnected and in increasing demand world-wide.  Scientists at the University of Texas note nearly 1 billion people world-wide are near starvation, nearly 1 billion do not have adequate freshwater, and more than 2 billion people do not have proper sanitation.  

Systems models and dynamics demonstrate key interdependencies between energy, water and food.

For example, increases in wastewater and sanitation industrialization place greater demands on energy use. Similarly, increasing food production for global population growth creates greater demands for energy and freshwater – two commodities in increasing in demand and limited supply.

How can aquatic feedstock systems help to solve these interconnected energy, food, fuel challenges?  One solution is emerging from salt-tolerant feedstocks such as seaweed, sea asparagus, algae, and lemna, that can grow in brackish water,  saltwater and desert areas, saving freshwater and arable land for vital resources.

Many salt-tolerant aquatic feedstocks are also used for bioremediation to treat wastewater, yielding freshwater and sanitation benefits. Several aquatic feedstocks and varieties are now being further developed as sustainable, alternative sources for biofuels, food, feed, and fiber.

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By: W. Thurmond