We’ve seen a spate of companies getting involved in algae fuel in recent months, and all of them plan to use some variation on bioreactors and algae farms to squeeze oil out of algae. California startup LiveFuels is taking a different approach: feed algae to filter-hungry fish, round up the fish, and squeeze the oil out of them.
Gruesome? Yes, but there are a number of advantages to this approach. LiveFuels won’t have to extract algae from water (an energy-intensive task), build bioreactors, or make carbon dioxide bubblers to turn algae into oil. Instead, the fish are left with the task of making the oil and storing it in their organs. The process is completely carbon neutral since the algae suck up carbon from the water, and phosphate from leftover fish bones can be used for fertilizer.
There are also some downsides–not the least of which involves animal-rights advocates chasing down LiveFuels. The fish-extraction process needs more algae than if LiveFuels harvested the algae directly. And, as Treehugger points out, doesn’t this require starting up a new factory-farm industry?
Regardless, LiveFuels is testing its process at nine ponds in Brownsville, Texas. If all goes as planned, the company will cart fish to algae blooms in the ocean, where they will be given free rein to produce liquid energy for our cars, buses, and trucks.