Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pacific Rim Bioenergy Summit Honolulu: Nov 8-11

Honolulu will host the upcoming 2009 Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy from Nov 8-11. One of the most important topics of discussion will be algal biofuels, with detailed reports on algal R&D progress from producers.
Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section, said, “Algae is seen as a promising source of raw material for biofuels, but it also could become a workhorse for producing ethanol, chemical, protein and food ingredients. As companies work to achieve the full potential of algae for fuels and chemicals, they’ll face the same challenges and opportunities as other biotechnology companies. The Pacific Rim Summit provides an opportunity for startup companies to present the state of their research and development, share their experiences and network with one another and with other biotechnology companies.” _EarthTimes
With a world oil market trade amounting to trillions of dollars yearly, algal biofuels companies have a long way to go to compete with the well established liquid fuels industry. The challenge is immense, but worth rising to.

The promise of ultimately replacing a large proportion of petroleum fuels with algal biofuels is seen as a threat by certain economic interests. Any corporation that is heavily invested in biodiesel from soy, maize, rape, palm, or other conventional oil crop must feel significant threat from the long term promise of microbial energy -- including algal fuels. Promoters of electric vehicles are likewise worried that an abundant liquid fuel seen as "clean and green" would slow the momentum toward an "all electric" highway fleet.

Last of all, promoters of environmental doom -- the dieoff.orgiast believers in catastrophic climate doom and peak oil doom -- must feel enormous threat from any source of energy that might allow modern societies to continue a life of prosperous consumption.

Still, the economic argument of a potential multi-trillion dollar market is inescapable. Enemies of algal fuels will use every trick in the book to stop the perceived threat. After they lose the fight, they will be forgotten.

Previously published at Al Fin



Blogger szilard said...

"Enemies of algal fuels will use every trick in the book to stop the perceived threat."

You can't find a job without a mandatory intellectual property agreement anymore. Any technology invented can be patented and mothballed by asking for huge licensing fees and only practicing it in a pilot-flame manner, and messing up operations on purpose. Mothballing should buy 20 years of patent time, and by then we'll extend time limits or make patents nonexpiring/renewable/perpetual.

12:46 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

That is one way to look at big oil's interest in microbial biofuels. Buy it and freeze it.

The problem with that is that a lot of other big money interests are invested as well, and they have more to gain from biofuels than to lose.

Not only that, but big oil has been driven out of Russia, the Persian Gulf, large parts of Africa (by Chinese bidders), Venezuela, Bolivia, etc. They have to get a big win -- and deep sea drilling is so expensive!

They need something solid to use to slap the sovereign oil companies with. "Either let us back in or we'll make your oil obsolete . . . "

There are too many different approaches to microbial biofuels to be able to grab up all the patents and intellectual rights.

Government regulation and lawsuits will be the biggest obstacle to large scale biofuels, in my opinion.

9:48 AM  

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