The Advantage of Algae as a Fuel Source

I talked not too long ago about how I was rethinking Ethanol, due to the fact that we are using too much food crop land to grow it, causing food prices to rise and a host of other problems with Ethanol from corn and/or soy (more soil erosion among them). I advocated biodiesel, since it can be made from a host of other products easier, notably hemp, which could easily replace cotton since it lasts longer and is softer than cotton and uses far less pesticides (nearly none, compared to cotton’s use of nearly 50% of all the pesticides in the US), it also makes a great paper that doesn’t require harvesting trees and can’t be smoked (it is the fear of people using it like marijuana that the government doesn’t allow US farmers to grow it, among the few that can’t in the world). I still suggest replacing large amounts of cotton crops with hemp, but there is a way of growing a crop for biodiesel (and apparently ethanol as well) without having to use food/feed stock crop land.
Algae can be grown in areas that would be hostile to food/feed stock crops or grazing grass lands. Further they absorb a bunch of CO2 and can use waste water (read sewage) producing fertilizer as a bi-product. The total amount of land needed to replace all our fuel requirements (if everything was converted from gas to biodiesel, not a realistic goal to be sure but just as an example of a vast total need measurement) using algae as a source for the bio-diesel would still be very small amount of land, even when spread across the US (the fewer the spots, the less land required, but it is best to spread it around)… about 9.5 million acres (using the one spot model) to 28.5 million acres (spread across the US), compared that to soy, which would require 3 billion (yes, that one was with a “b”) acres and 1 billion acres using canola.
I have seen suggestions of using some algae farms as scrubbers, to reduce NOX and CO2 emissions by 86% and 40% respectively (the clean diesels that are coming out while still producing NOX and the like, due so at a low enough rate that there is still a net NOX reduction). Again, my goal isn’t so much as a greenhouse reduction, but if that is a by product, then all the better. My main goal is reducing dependence on foreign oil. All this with a move to biodiesel based plugin-hybrids would go a long way to achieving this goal… not that I expect many to move to plugin hybrids, but if mass transportation did, and a fair percentage of the people expected to by normal hybrids did, then we would still be far better off than we are today.
Algae can also produce hydrogen, which is still ages from being a truly viable energy source for a variety of reasons, but the potential is there once they get around all the issues with it.
Algae may be our saving grace. The government needs to stop it’s crazed funding of ethanol based on corn and soy, and farm subsidies for those crops, and move that money (if it must use it at all) for more research into algae which would give far better results.
Sources: Widescale Biodiesel Production from Algae, Biodiesel from Algae is Here! and Algaculture.