Select Page


The media has been information-bombing us with stories about alternative fuel sources as a way to deal with global warming. Here’s a very simple, very quick breakdown of a misunderstood alternative fuel – algae biodiesel.

What is algae?

Algae comes in many forms: seaweed, fungus, kelp, and moss. It’s any kind of simple, prokaryotic organism. In the taxonomic world, it ranks right up there with bacteria in that its cells do not have nuclei. Almost every other living thing on Earth is made up of a cells with a nucleus. So this type of creature is biologically quite ancient.

How can algae be an alternative fuel source?

Inside the walls of the algae cells are stored lipids (fats or oils) that are used for fuel. Fats and oils contain incredible amounts of compacted and concentrated energy. There are at least four methods of extraction, but in the spirit of simplicity, here is what happens: the lipids are pressed out of the cells through a combination chemical and mechanical process. The chemical reaction loosens the lipids from the cell wall, and a mechanical “press” separates it completely from the plant–very similar to how olive oil is made. There are two more chemical reactions that take place to refine and purify this oil to make it into usable biodiesel.

If the technology for this alternative fuel source is at least ten years away, why do I need to know about it?

Being an informed consumer not only means making the best purchases from the choices currently available on the market; it also means voting for politicians who support research and development subsidies for these alternative fuel industries, so that they may be available in the future.

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.