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Biofuels - A Letter to The Times

Sir, After soliciting opinions from 300 “experts” (presumably without any well-informed algologists, photobiologists or plant biochemists among their number) the UK’s Carbon Trust has created an Algae Biofuel Challenge, a £16 million fund to support the development and large-scale production of algal oil. Sadly, this initiative disregards half a century of worldwide research and the constraints imposed by the laws of physics. It is based on the belief that microalgae are ten times as productive as other “plants” even though there is no evidence that cultivated algae are able to accumulate substantially more biomass, during a period of sustained growth, than other green organisms. When comparisons of productivity are based on the normal period of growth, the yields of biomass are similar, regardless of species or locality.

Intensive agricultural practice of any sort rarely uses less fossil fuel energy than the solar energy that it conserves as biomass. Biofuels do not, therefore, lead to an appreciable sparing of carbon dioxide emissions that could not be better accomplished by the most modest means of energy conservation.

David Alan Walker
Emeritus Professor of Photosynthesis, University of Sheffield

And that is what I think is called an academic bitch-slap from a real expert to the wannabe experts....


Seems like it will be similar to the Australian scheme, but worse. The minister in charge of it has been 'demoted' and the on-going costs are likely to me enormous, let alone the many house fires and four deaths attributable to the scheme.

Is an AlGologist someone who studies Al Gore?

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