Entrepreneurs Wade Into the ‘Dead Zone’: Ambitious Bid to Turn Algae Into Biofuel Taps Mother Nature

14Aug09

According to an article by Russell Gold in the August 12 Wall Street Journal online, a major environmental threat may be getting some help — not from passionate enviro activists, but from entrepreneurial capitalists who see it as a potential solution for another environmental threat.  Here’s the lead from this “two-fer” story:

“Every spring, fertilizer runoff from the U.S. Mississippi River floods into the Gulf of Mexico, causing a massive algae bloom that leads to a giant oxygen-deprived “dead zone” where fish can’t survive.

Now, this annual problem is getting new attention, not from marine scientists but from entrepreneurs looking for a new domestic source of fuel. And one start-up sees fish themselves being part of the process.

The algae blooms are spawned each year as the farmland runoff from as far away as Montana flows into rivers, eventually reaching the Mississippi and flowing into Louisiana bayous and out into the Gulf of Mexico. These nutrients are a buffet for the floating algae, or phytoplankton, which are simple sea organisms that eat and reproduce quickly. This algae bloom eventually sinks and feeds an array for bacteria, which suck up so much oxygen that fish and plants either move away or perish.”

Read the entire article at WSJ.com.

This type of symbiosis, if it proves feasible, may illustrate the way that we must re-orient ourselves away from single-purpose, stovepipe solution thinking toward more integrated approaches to the complex problems that have environmental, economic and political ramifications.

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