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.
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.