O Algae! Save Us from Big Oil!

According to headlines in the Arizona Republic, "Arizona set to become center for algae-based, biofuel industry. Clean, green energy source could replace fossil fuels." Sure it could. And mining green cheese from Selene, Gaia's nearest celestial neighbor, will put dairy farmers out of business -- once a market for green cheese is created.

"With its ideal climate and abundance of available land, Arizona is poised to become a major center of a multibillion-dollar, algae-based, biofuel industry." Need further proof? An "algae summit" will be held here next month. Well, that clinches it-I'm convinced.

Many contradictions in the article. For one, the intrepid reporter says algae grows in brackish water, of which Arizona has plenty. Plenty? As in millions of acre-feet? Because that's what you'd need to "make a difference." Are there vast brackish lakes in the state that I never noticed? Oh, that's right, Arizona has exactly one natural lake: the others are reservoirs, and that water is bespoke, not to mention fresh. That leaves wells and pumping. No downside there? Drilling wells and pumping water, fresh or brackish, is free, right? But wait, next we're told that algae could be grown in treated wastewater. And all that wastewater would be free too, right? Because no one's using it now?

Then we are assured they'll get the cost down from the current $20 per gallon to $3 or $4, but it does not say if that's the cost to produce it or what it would sell for at the pump, an important distinction. Nowhere does the reporter address the energy inputs necessary to produce one gallon of fuel. Instead, he assures us there are "externalities" to the cost of oil. What about the externalities to growing algae (see above for a few)?

These guys wouldn't know a cost/benefit analysis if it bit them on the elbow: call it green and there are never any tradeoffs, just win-win. As when the boosters of hydrogen power tell us we have an unlimited source of hydrogen in water, and all we have to do is separate the Hs from the Os. Yes, that's all. They are as innocent of the concept of conservation of energy as a babe new born. Why do I get the feeling that the "journalist" who produced this algae story has forgot whatever he learned in seventh-grade science class?

Then I read the first couple pages of comments. Nearly all were gaga over the idea of a petroleum replacement from algae. Yep, money for nothin'. As one poster cooed, "I'd gladly pay $4" a gallon. Sure he would. Does everyone recall when ex-President Clinton said that the tax rates on people like him, with his $10 million per year in speaker's fees, are too low? Why did no one stand up and say, "Mr. President, why wait? Why not write a check today for $5 million? $10 million? Why wait for the coercion of the government? Save us, please!" Oh, please!

Henry Percy is the nom de guerre for a technical writer living in Arizona. He may be reached at saler.50d@gmail.com.
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