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Comparison of best biofuels technologies (including synthetic biology) for which will replace fossil fuels.
Government mandates and energy independence is driving the rapid commercialisation of sustainable biofuel technologies. This paper looks at which of the current technologies is likely to meet the sustainability, energy independence, total cost and scale requirements to replace fossil fuels.
Some groups have claimed that current crop-based biofuels technologies not only can be produced for less than fossil-fuel based fuel, but can also be scaled up to supply perhaps 50% of global oil demands. These economics means government mandates for biofuels are likely to continue to drive the conversion of food crops to oil crops. Given forecasted severe global food and water shortages and already worrying signs about the displacement of food crops to produce more profitable oil crops, the trend is moving towards biofuel sources such as microalgae, which are not crop based.
Microalgae still faces significant scale and production cost constraints. Despite aggressive claims to be able to scale up and achieve costs of between US$0.50 to US$1.00 per litre, the algae biofuel industry is still perhaps 10 years and many hundreds of millions of dollars of research away from achieving its scale and cost objectives.
Companies like GenetiFuel are trying to solve these significant issues by engineering new algae-based organisms that can organically produce finished biofuel or oil products. While these technologies appear to be able to achieve cost and scale requirements, there are still scalability issues that will need to be solved over a 5 year time period.