Biofuel from Algae: Salvation from Peak Oil?

  • Christopher J. Rhodes
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 15)


There is practically nothing in the modern world that does not depend on the resource of plentiful, cheap oil. The majority of crude oil is refined into fuel for transportation, but it also provides a feedstock for a myriad of industries, producing products ranging from plastics to pharmaceuticals. In total, it is reckoned that worldwide some 86 million barrels of oil are consumed daily, which amounts to just over 31 billion barrels a year. Around one quarter of all oil is used in the USA, which was formerly the world’s main oil-producing nation. Now that accolade is with Saudi Arabia, which delivers an almost ten million barrel daily aliquot to the world oil markets, while Russia exhumes an almost equal quantity. In 1999, the price of a barrel of oil was $12, but reached almost $150 in the summer of 2008 preceding a world stock market crash and a fallback to $25 a barrel (Rhodes, 2008). The price rose during the following year and, writing in August 2009, it is now around $70 a barrel. There are many factors held culpable for such frenetic activity in the marketplace, including a seemingly inexorable demand for oil (and indeed all kinds of energy resources) from rising economies such as China and India, a weakening US dollar, and that oil is becoming harder to produce, as a general principle. Over all of this looms the specter of peak oil, which is the point at which production meets a geological maximum, and beyond which it must relentlessly fall. The combination of these factors must culminate in a gap between rising demand and ultimately falling supply. Within a decade or less, the world economies will no longer be able to depend on some limitless growth in oil output. For these reasons, attention is being turned toward “Alternatives,” which ideally are also “Renewables,” but the issue of biofuels is more complex than is generally realized, and it is at best a partial solution bearing its own attendant environmental costs (Rhodes, 2005).


Diesel Engine Arable Land Supercritical Fluid Extraction Fuel Crop Indigenous Phosphate Rock 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fresh-LandsReadingUK

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