According to a team of researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, algea-based biofuels could replace up to 17 % of America's petroleum imports each year, without a significant impact on fresh water use.
The issue of where the water necessary to grow the algal components for the fuel is (arguably) the greatest singles source of controversy surrounding algea based fuels, but the PNL researchers note that raising even large amounts of algae in the humid climates of the Gulf Coast, Southeastern Seaboard and Great Lakes regions would require very little “new” water use. Addressing the issue of water, Mark Wigmosta (the project's hydrologist and lead author of the study) dismissed excessive water-use concerns, explaining that “algae has been a hot topic of biofuel discussions recently, but no one has taken such a detailed look at how much America could make — and how much water and land it would require — until now.”
Algea biofuels are made by extracting and refining the fats and lipids within algae, which are ideal biofuel stock because they grows quickly and thrive in everything from seawater to sewage.
These biofuels could go a long way toward meeting the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) without getting drawn into dubious “food for fuel” arguments. The EISA requires that bio-based fuels replace more than 10 % of our current petroleum consumption by 2022.