Solazyme: Ideas that make you go Yay then Boooo!

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davew
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Solazyme: Ideas that make you go Yay then Boooo!

I've been hearing about these guys for a while. Without knowing much about their product I found myself silently rooting for them,... that is until yesterday when I learned some more specifics. They were using algae to create biodiesel. I'm not a huge fan of liquid fuels, but if you have to make them this might be a good way to go about it. Then I heard Solazyme bragging that their process is better because "it works in the dark." Now hold on one cotton picking minute. I thought the algae were using photosynthesis. What little I remember of high school biology says this doesn't work very well in the dark. So if they aren't using sunlight what are they using? Sugar. Fantastic. I can see the proposal now:

Step 1: Come up with an limitless and environmentally friendly source of sugar.

Step 2:...

You see Step 2 doesn't matter all that much when Step 1 poses so much of a problem. Sugar is a source of energy. Once you've got it the problem is mostly licked. I turn sugar into useful energy all the time. Sometimes I call it bread. Sometimes I call it beer. Maybe algae provide some mild efficiencies or process advantages over using yeast, but this is hardly a breakthrough. The problem is finding lots and lots of sugar. This is hydrogen all over again. If we had a limitless supply of environmentally friendly hydrogen the problem of how to use it would become interesting. We don't so it's not.

One of the problems in working for efficient transportation is these clowns who are either out for a quick suck of the government teat or starry-eyed idealists who have only thought through half of the larger problem. They create so much noise that it's hard to get the signal out.

reikiman
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Re: Solazyme: Ideas that make you go Yay then Boooo!

Weeeeellll.... I suppose the sugar had to be grown in a plant that grew in sunshine. I suppose the algae doesn't have to be grown in a pond, but in an enclosed vat. Though I recall reading the algae would be kept warm by sunlight? Or have they ditched that for a natural gas powered heater?

When I first heard of biodiesel it seemed like a great thing -- until I heard Indonesia was razing their rain forest to plant palm plantations to grow palm oil so they could become the kings of biodiesel.

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LinkOfHyrule
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Re: Solazyme: Ideas that make you go Yay then Boooo!

"Step 1: Come up with an limitless and environmentally friendly source of sugar.

Step 2:..."

Step 3: Profit!

:P

The author of this post isn't responsible for any injury, disability or dismemberment, death, financial loss, illness, addiction, hereditary disease, or any other undesirable consequence or general misfortune resulting from use of the "information" contai

davew
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Re: Solazyme: Ideas that make you go Yay then Boooo!

Though I recall reading the algae would be kept warm by sunlight?

There are teams that are working on turning algae into fuel using sunlight/photosynthesis. Algae BioFuels for one. This is not Solazyme's approach (making their name more than a little misleading). The difficulty of the solar approach is the varying rate of the process based on available light and some mechanical problems like keeping the glass/plastic tubes transparent. This is why Solazyme loves their big, stainless steel vats.

The other thing that chaps me about this is sugar should be too expensive to use like this, but America subsidizes sugar to kowtow to powerful Florida lobbyists support domestic agriculture. Destroying the Everglades and keeping poor farmers (in countries with climates much better suited to sugar cultivation) in poverty are just collateral damage.

When I first heard of biodiesel it seemed like a great thing -- until I heard Indonesia was razing their rain forest to plant palm plantations to grow palm oil so they could become the kings of biodiesel.

Ditto. You can throw in people who depend on corn for nutrition not being able to afford it any more. It's a good idea in principle, but seems like a disaster in practice.

"we must be the change we wish to see in the world"

andrew
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Re: Solazyme: Ideas that make you go Yay then Boooo!

Wired Jan 23, 2008 Article:
Driving Around Sundance With Biodiesel Made From Algae

Earlier this year, the company signed a deal with Imperium Renewables Inc. to produce algal oil for Imperium's biodiesel refining process. Solazyme says joining forces with Chevron will provide the expertise it needs to increase production and cut costs.

"Building a relationship with Chevron Technology Ventures is an important step toward commercialization of Solazyme's technology, which fits cleanly into Chevron's existing refining and fuels distribution infrastructure." Jonathan Wolfson, Solazyme's CEO, said in a statement.

What's worse is they pray on the "green" mentality movement. The title of the article is misleading. It should read: "...Made with Algea from Suger." Our only hope is that the masses are smart enough to dig deeper and not buy into this garbage.

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