This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
The search for new fuels has led some
researchers to algae. Algae is a name for thousands of different organisms. They
include single-celled plants as well as kelp and other large plants.
Bruland is an ocean sciences professor at the University of California, Santa
Cruz. He says many experts also consider plant-like bacteria to be a form of algae.
These bacteria make food from the sun like plants do.
Algae grow quickly and some contain a
lot of oils. Most algae-to-energy researchers are growing algae in huge tanks. But
one company, Blue Marble Energy in Seattle, Washington, uses algae already
growing along coastlines. Workers pump it
into bags on a boat. They have to be careful not to suck up young fish or other
Blue Marble says its work could help prevent harmful algae
blooms. A bloom is when a dense area of algae forms and spreads. Some blooms
can harm people, animals or the environment.
Warmer water can cause blooms, and some
scientists think global warming is adding to an increase in large ones. Nutrients
from sewage and agricultural fertilizers also help algae grow.
Marble is a start-up company with private investors. It also has a contract
with Washington state to collect the algae called ulva, or sea lettuce, in
parts of Seattle's Puget Sound waterway. In Puget Sound, big blooms of sea lettuce often
break down in Dumas Bay. This process of rotting uses up oxygen and kills
marine life. And when the sea lettuce
washes up on the beach, it smells terrible.
Blue Marble President Kelly
Ogilvie says his company has collected almost four thousand kilos of algae in
two harvests. The next step is to use bacteria to break down the algae into
natural gas and different chemicals. Most companies doing algae-to-energy
research are creating liquid biofuels for cars or airplanes.
some people have concerns about harvesting wild algae. University of Washington
researcher Kevin Britton-Simmons says removing the algae does not solve the
problem. He says keeping fertilizer and other pollutants out of the water would
prevent a lot of unnatural blooms.
also says it is difficult to tell the difference between natural algae blooms
and those caused by human activity. He says removing natural blooms would
remove valuable food for marine life.
that's the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE Report. I'm Steve Ember.