The Buzz

ABO Challenges RAND Military Biofuels Report

January 25, 2011

On January 25, 2011 the RAND Corporation issued a press release and published a study calling into question the effectiveness of renewable fuels, including those made from algae, for military use. This report, which the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) considers inaccurate, could have a chilling effect on support for biofuels in general, and algae in particular.

In canvassing their members and other players in the algae-to-fuel space, it appears to ABO that researchers from RAND did not reach out to the leading companies in the industry. “We believe researchers relied on outdated or incomplete information, potentially skewing their recommendations,” says Mary Rosenthal of the ABO.

How you can help: If you’re in the industry (algae, aviation, biofuels, etc.) and think you should have been contacted, and weren’t, please let ABO know. They are preparing a formal response to the report.

The report can be found here:

A copy of the press release is here:

ABO is still reviewing the actual report, but they have developed initial talking points that they are using with media and other concerned stakeholders. These have been posted on the ABO website and will be updated after consultation with the board and a full review of the report.

ABO’s response:

  1. It is our understanding that researchers at RAND did not reach out to any of the leading algae companies. Given that most of the cutting edge algae-fuels research is taking place today in the private sector where companies rightly protect their intellectual property, and given that the industry has made significant progress in the past three years, we believe the report is likely based on outdated information. In our opinion, basing sweeping policy recommendations on such data is misguided if not reckless.
  2. The positioning of the entire US algae industry as a “research topic” is frankly both demeaning and patently false. We have more than 100 companies, academic institutions and national laboratories working to develop the algae-to-fuels industry.  Algae-derived fuels have already been tested and/or used in motor vehicles and commercial aircraft, and last fall’s successful test of a Navy Riverine Command boat showed that algae fuels are ready for use. It is unclear to us whether or not any actual “green” CTL fuels have been produced or tested.
  3. We believe algae commercialization is far closer than RAND suggests. A 2010 report by Greentech Media projected annual US production of 6 billion gallons of algae fuel by 2022. On the contrary, the RAND report calls the potential for commercial production of CTL fuels over the next decade “very limited.”
  4. We will continue to work on behalf of the US algae industry to inform policymakers of the true potential of algae-based fuels as a long term, viable source of renewable fuels for the military.
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