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Sustainability Potential Highlights ABS Day Two
September 26, 2012
ay two of the 2011 Algae Biomass Summit, the official conference of the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) and the world’s largest algae industry gathering, was highlighted by discussions about algae’s unique ability to address sustainability challenges while serving as a source of renewable, domestically produced food, fuel and other products. The impressive progress of the industry over the past few years has brought attention from governments and investors around the world, and conference attendees spent most of the day discussing how to leverage the progress to-date.
L. Hunter Lovins, President of Natural Capitalism Solutions urged attendees during a morning keynote address to envision the algae industry as one solution to global challenges that include food shortages, freshwater supply disruptions, ocean acidification and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Using algae to produce renewable fuels, feed and other products has the potential to address all of these problems because algae can produce enormous yields over other feedstocks, can clean wastewater as they grow, and absorb carbon dioxide.
Sustainability was also the focus of a plenary discussion that included representatives from the research community and environmental organizations. Industry CEOs, suppliers and algae end-users listened as panelists discussed how algae businesses can capitalize on algae’s unique sustainably advantages.
At an afternoon panel discussion on algae and effective policies that can support new technology development, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) acknowledged that the algae industry has made gains that the government can’t ignore, and voiced their excitement for programs that will offer researchers new testing and production opportunities.
Sarah Bittleman, Senior Advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack noted enthusiasm for the algae industry’s potential to be a source of jobs in rural areas, since those locations will be ideal for algae production facilities and infrastructure. This point was driven home during a closing keynote by Cynthia “C.J.” Warner, Chairman and CEO of Sapphire Energy, who said that Sapphire’s Green Crude Farm in Columbus, New Mexico created over 600 jobs in one of the state’s poorest communities.
While speaking of the sustainability dimensions of an industry that is quickly developing renewable sources of domestic fuels and other products, Ms. Warner offered some forward looking inspiration for those that get distracted by the back-and-forth of the national energy debate. “I believe we are headed directly down the path to the best of times,” she said.
The summit will continue through Thursday afternoon. Information on the event, including a full agenda is available at http://algaebiomasssummit.org. Ongoing developments can also be monitored via the Twitter hashtag #ABS12.