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Could industrialised seaweed farms provide a sustainable alternative to corn biofuel?

This article originally featured in The Skylark’s newsletter and was written as a condensed news in brief.

Biofuel is thought to be a potential alternative to fossil fuels in sectors where electrification is difficult, particularly aviation and other forms of transport. Unfortunately, most biofuels use a corn-based ethanol which, though it absorbs CO2 as it grows, requires a lot of land, fertiliser and fresh water to be produced.

This is not sustainable and takes up land that could be used for natural habitats. US start up Marine BioEnergy have recently received a government grant that will help them investigate seaweed as a more sustainable alternative.

Unlike corn, seaweed doesn’t need fertiliser or fresh water to grow and is highly versatile, able to be harvested and turned into various forms of biogas, ethanol and other chemicals.

There is also plenty of space to grow seaweed, with thousands of square miles of sea floor available for potential cultivation. However, several hurdles exist before such a process could be industrialised, particularly a greater understanding of the effect on underwater ecosystems.

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