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This March, up to 55 students will begin attending classes at UC San Diego Extension and Mira Costa College, learning to transform algae, colloquially known as pond scum, into car fuel.

“That's what petroleum is – it's ancient algae,” said Dr. Stephen Mayfield, a UCSD biology professor and director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology. “Algae already makes oil that looks like crude oil. The oil we extract from algae goes directly into a refinery and gets converted into diesel or gasoline.”

Those enrolled in the program are receiving the benefit of an approximate $7,000 state grant per pupil, awarded by the California Department of Labor under its Green Innovation challenge. They’re the second group to pass through the program, largely funded by a two-year grant totaling $4 million.

Feedback from the graduates of the first classes, along with that of faculty and local biofuels companies will result in a revamped structure for the program, which will run from March through August. Once the teaching materials are perfected, UCSD will develop a web-based curriculum that will be available to other California universities or to individuals globally through enrollment in UCSD Extension.

For now though, San Diego enjoys an advantage as a world leader in biofuels research and development. A San Diego Association of Governments study cited by UCSD suggests that jobs related to the fuel use of algae total 410 in the region, creating $56 million in direct economic activity.

“With this training, these students are prepared to support the region's growing biofuels companies and help San Diego continue to be a leader in the biofuels sector,” says Jason Anderson, vice president of CleanTECH San Diego, a non-profit that pushes for expansion of San Diego’s “clean technology” economy.

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Comments

Visduh Dec. 5, 2011 @ 9:29 a.m.

There are tales of how, in the 1920's, some carnies traveled the country putting on demonstrations of a "magic" process that would transform a fuel tank full of plain water into a tankful of gasoline through the simple addition of a large tablet to the tank. Of course, the nature of that tablet is lost to posterity, if it ever existed. (Utter nonsense, of course.) This sounds in some ways like an update of that scam. We can only wait and see if it actually produces more than token quantities of hydrocarboons that could be blended into gasoline.

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paul Dec. 5, 2011 @ 1:48 p.m.

You have to look at the big picture.

If we start farming this stuff now, then after several million years of accumulation there will be enough fuel to sustain our ape overlords.

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fatalgae Dec. 8, 2011 @ 8:27 a.m.

Solydra story is opening a huge can of worms at the DOE LOAN GURANTEE LOAN PROGRAM. Its not just about the Solar loan guarantee program. Look at all the millions in fees collected by the DOE LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAM with projects 20% completed. Also, an audit needs to be done on DOE GRANTS to individuals from the DOE that are now working in private industry. Very incestuous! There needs to be an audit on each individual loan program for amount funded and results!

The US taxpayer has spent over $2.5 billion dollars over the last 50 years on algae research. To date, nothing has been commercialized by any algae researcher.

The REAL question is: Does the DOE BIOMASS PROGRAM really want the US off of foreign oil or do they want to continue funding more grants for algae research to keep algae researchers employed at universities for another 50 years?

In business, you are not given 50 years to research anything. The problem is in the Congressional Mandate that says the DOE can only use taxpayer monies on algae research, NOT algae production in the US. So far, research has not got the US off of foreign oil for the last 50 years!

A Concerned Taxpayer

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