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Algae holds much promise

Simcoe Reformer: Bob Blakeley - Oct 3, 2008

http://www.simcoereformer.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1231116

Last week I reported on the huge amount of algae appearing once again on Lake Erie.

It appears as if there might be a silver lining in that cloud.

Research is being conducted in Europe to turn algae into biofuel. It is also being used for animal feed, skin treatments and biodegradable plastics. There is growing concern around the world about turning food crops into ethanol and algae may solve part of that problem.

Researchers admit using algae for fuel may be 10 years away but the advantage is it can grow anywhere there is water and sunlight. Under the right conditions it can double its volume in a few hours and if this is successful could have enormous potential. Algae also consumes nearly twice its weight in carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas that is discharged by vehicles, power plants and heavy industry.

But the algae being used in the research program is being grown on purpose. The stuff showing up in Lake Erie is not and that problem needs to be solved.

Meanwhile, University of Calgary climate change researchers say they are close to figuring out how to commercialize the capture of carbon dioxide from the air with a simple system that could be set up anywhere.

If they can make it work, it would allow greenhouse gas to be removed from ambient air and reduce the effect of emissions from transportation sources such as vehicles and airplanes. The technology isn't new, it has been used since the 1950s, but the key is for the system to remove more carbon dioxide from the air than it emits. Experiments done over the summer in Calgary show it can be done.

The system involves a seven-metre carbon dioxide capture tour. The tower acts as a scrubber, with sodium dioxide, also known as caustic soda, reacting with air blown into its base. A metal honeycomb inside the tower slows down the flow of the soda allowing it to efficiently scrub carbon dioxide.

While these two moves are encouraging we can't give up the fight to clean the environment.

If we continue to pollute at the rate we are we will never get on top of the problem. Science can only take us so far, we have to clean up the source of the problem. Scientists are already concerned that the environmental scales have been tipped in the Arctic with irreversible damage being done.

Though many discount the signs of global warming, it is a fact. One of the problems is that the phenomena often manifests itself in ways not associated with a warming climate - storms get worse, happen more often and it is not going to improve.

If you look, you can see the changes in your area right now. They are often subtle but they are there. We all have a stake

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