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Your Next Trip to the Airport May Be Fueled By Algae

algae-biofuel future car.jpg
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The imaginary algae Ferrari of the future
St. Louis-based conglomerate Enterprise Rent-A-Car is going green. Algae green, to be specific.

The company is converting its entire fleet of airport shuttle buses -- more than 600 vehicles -- to biofuel. For now soybeans will provide the power but a report from yesterday's St. Louis Business Journal says algae -- the tiny blue-green plants that clog up your favorite fishing hole -- is their fuel of the future.

The change will happen gradually. The rental giant hopes that all its buses will be powered by five percent soybeans by the coming spring, fifty percent by the end of the year* and a complete biofuel conversion within the next five years.

The company -- the largest privately held business in St. Louis -- estimates that the change will save 420,000 gallons of diesel in the first year alone, the equivalent of taking 60 buses off the streets.

As for the algae...


...the Business Journal reports:
Enterprise created the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur with a $25 million gift in 2007 from the company's founding family, the Taylors of St. Louis. Scientist Richard Sayre is leading the algae research at the Danforth Center.
Wikipedia (take it with a grain of salt) has a very in-depth entry on algae biofuel. The highlight:
Among algal fuels' attractive characteristics: they do not affect fresh water resources, can be produced using ocean and wastewater, and are biodegradable and relatively harmless to the environment if spilled. Algae cost more per unit mass yet can yield over 30 times more energy per unit area than other, second-generation biofuel crops. One biofuels company has claimed that algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two car garage than a football field of soybeans, because almost the entire algal organism can use sunlight to produce lipids, or oil.
The only bad news is that it appears St. Louis will not be immediately included in Enterprise's eco-friendly change. Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Raleigh/Durham, San Diego and San Antonio will be the vanguard.

*UPDATE 11:50 a.m.: A representative from Enterprise's PR company called with a slight correction. Half of the company's buses will be running on 20 percent soybean biodiesel by the end of next year, not 50 percent soybean biodiesel as we originally reported. Also, St. Louis will be among the first cities to switch to the eco-friendly fuel but, unlike the nine listed above, the vehicles here will run on five percent rather than 20 percent biodiesel.

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