Deal With IT's Secretary Victoria Nicholls writes a regular column in the East Kent MercuryThere is a fascinating report this week about harvesting seaweed as a biofuel. Experiments are taking place in the Sound of Kerrera, near Oban in Scotland, where kelp is being grown to be converted into fuel.
The Scottish Association for Marine Science is working alongside groups in Norway and Ireland to develop a crop from seaweed which can be used to produce ethanol, which can be mixed with petrol to use in vehicles or methane to be used for domestic purposes.
Biofuels are important in a world trying to wean itself away from fossil fuels. Many biofuels are produced from food crops such as corn and sugar which pushes up global prices in a world where many are hungry. Biofuel production also uses increasingly scarce water supplies and palm oil, in particular, can cause more carbon dioxide pollution than diesel when burnt.
Seaweed does not cause any such problems. In fact, it has been shown to clean up the pollution caused by fish farms and kelp grows faster than plants on land. It converts sunshine into chemical energy up to five times more quickly than land plants.
Although ethanol from kelp will still be burnt as fuel and therefore release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it is considered to be carbon neutral because it absorbs carbon dioxide to photosynthesise while it is growing.
There is already great competition for land to grow food crops so biofuel from a sea based crop could be one answer to our need for energy.
Victoria Nicholls. Transition Deal.