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July 28, 2008

What's it all about? Algae!

Posted: 05:03 PM ET

It’s been a pretty exciting day for our first day on the road. We finished up doing three TV live-shots today in San Francisco – making my CNN TV debut after 13 years at


Then we got a quick tour of the Solazyme plant, where we saw a variety of algae oils which can be used to make everything from fuel for vehicles… to soap... to even food products.

In fact, we tasted some very delicious banana bread at Solazyme that was made from algae oils instead of the butter and eggs that would normally be used in a recipe. People on vegan diets will be interested in this kind of thing.


Now Brian and I are getting ready to head out to Yosemite National Park where, Tuesday at 9:40 a.m. ET on Live, we’re going to talk to park officials about their green initiative - and whether this year’s economy is causing a drop in park traffic.


See ya’ll then!




Filed under: environment • Road trip

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Gene   July 28th, 2008 5:41 pm ET

You can eat pond scum if you want. I'll stick with real food – and real gasoline.

Richard   July 28th, 2008 6:00 pm ET

Pay attention here folks.This is the future. Solazyme has a contract with the army to make fuel for military vehicles. It runs any modern deisel engine and enough to run every deisel in America can be made in an area the size of Maryland. Less pollution than regular deisel and absorbs CO2 while growing. Just one of many ways to make us energy independent if our leaders really want to do it.

Jason   July 28th, 2008 6:11 pm ET

Cody and Brian – enjoy the trip!

Love the Scout!

Will keep watching.


glueandglitter   July 28th, 2008 6:58 pm ET

Cody you know I want to hear all about these vegan baked goods! I hope you took pictures!

Mr. P’s Page » A new industry for Rochester?   July 28th, 2008 7:28 pm ET

[...] Wow that last post was a long one, I wonder who broke into my blog and wrote it?  Anyways, I found something interesting that would allow Rochester to profit from the algae at the beach, check it out: Algae oils... [...]

Sean   July 28th, 2008 7:53 pm ET

Has anyone considered the dead zone algae in the gulf of Mexico as a source of algae for these processes?

S Callahan   July 28th, 2008 7:54 pm ET

Cody, Tell us about the algae oils?
Richard, a little more info of how this applies to vehicles. Thanks

Austin   July 28th, 2008 8:11 pm ET

The oil from the algae is composed of triglycerides like all oils. The oil undergoes a process called transesterfication where the fatty acids are stripped from the triglycerides and become fatty acid methyl esters (otherwise known as biodiesel). The process requires heating, methanol (ethanol, propanol, and butanol will work too), and sodium hydroxide. The products of the reaction are biodiesel (fatty acid esters) and glycerol (aka. glycerin). This biodiesel is what can be run in unmodified diesel engines. I just wanted to elaborate on this concept because somewhere on here it said biodiesel was a mixture of the oil and something else. In reality, it is a totally different chemical than the oil. The oil cannot be run in unmodified diesel engines.

William Heritage   July 28th, 2008 8:11 pm ET

If you would like to know ore about Algae here is a good link start at:

Posted July 21, 2008 so you can see that it is up to date.


Paul   July 28th, 2008 8:17 pm ET

Cody- if you're going to be in Oshkosh, you really should check out these folks; not that far away, and they've already run their tractor on – hazelnut oil-

Think of all the nut jokes you could do!!

They were also featured on Salon:

kevin jager   July 28th, 2008 10:48 pm ET

C'mon lets get real first we use corn for bio-fuel now sugar

How about some water like they use in the oil industry to pump out the oil now the ads on tv telling us to conserve water so they can pump in under ground uncontrolled volumes.

Press to Digitate   July 29th, 2008 3:27 am ET

You could make a career in journalism just by visiting and interviewing the now 50+ companies entering the Algae Based Biofuels market. It can be literally "Biofuel Induction Out-of-Thin-Air", if Atmospheric Carbon Captors are used to provide the CO2 needed; water and sunlight are the only other things required by the algae to do their stuff.

Some species of Algae produce Sugars/Starches and Oils/Esters simultaneously, so that the same batch of algae gives you the materials to make both Ethanol and Biodiesel at the same time.

In addition, after the biofuels, the residual protein solids can be pelletized to make nutritious livestock feed, further substituting for Corn. The future is not "Food vs. Fuel", but rather "Food FROM Fuel".

Next to algae, all other forms of Renewable Energy pale into insignificance.

Go see Vertigro in El Paso and Greenfuel Technologies in Cambridge....

Thomas Jackson   July 29th, 2008 1:28 pm ET

Hello Cody,

Hey we would like to invite you to stop at the Ventura County Fair as a side trip where we will gladly fill up the tank in your International Scout with our very own recycled Veggie oil from our Fair grounds. We are setting up a pilot program to run our diesel grounds equipment on our vendor's cooking oil. Our Fair sees around 300,000 people each year and the Ventura County Fair Grounds is known as one of California most progressive recycling centers. We recycle all of our trash as well as being the first State Fairgrounds to have installed a comprehensive Solar installation on 70% of our structures. And now we are setting up our own Bio-Diesel planet to recycle our used cooking oil. Please if you can swing by after going thru Bakersfield we'll gladly fill you up with some Home Make Bio Diesel as well as some good old American fun at the Ventura County Fair Grounds !! We are all following you trip :o)

Tom Jackson

leezechka   July 29th, 2008 4:24 pm ET

hey cody, you should take them up on the ventura thing, I bet they have fried twinkies and corndogs too!!

you guys feel the earthquake?

Thomas Jackson   July 29th, 2008 5:29 pm ET

Hello Cody,

I should clarify that our Bio Diesel is produced in a BioPro 190

and meets ASTM QUALITY standards. The Biodiesel Standard (ASTM D 6751) Big Win for Biodiesel: ASTM Approves New Biodiesel Blend Specifications
Automakers, Fleets Encouraged by New Biodiesel Standards.

William Heritage   July 29th, 2008 6:14 pm ET

I have gone to the Solazyme web site but can not tell what type of a process they are using. Can you or anyone else tell me their process? Is it transesterfication?

Jon   July 29th, 2008 6:35 pm ET

While I think the idea of getting off crude oil is great, we need to look beyond oils. Deisel engines are, by their nature, very polluting because they burn at a lower temperture. This does not break down (burn) the fatty acid methyl esters (biodiesel) fully, leaving soot. For people with allergies or breathing problems, this causes more even suffering.

Hydrogen fuel cells looks a lot more promising in both terms of renewable resource and pollution. The only byproduct of Hydrogen is water, and if you setup the roadways properly, you could reclaim most of that fresh water for re-distrubution. Or, because of the re-distubution of water into the environment, arid areas could start to shrink.

The only problem with water is how you could make it profitable for companies? This question is why we will never see this on the open market. The money would have be made on the system, and not what goes in it.

Franko   July 30th, 2008 12:20 am ET

Battery, or Hydrogen, or Methanol fuel cell option, decided by ease and economy.
Same electrical, but choose the power for your trip.
Perhaps more options, diesel electric generator, atomic battery,
overhead trolley lines, beamed microwave. .. ..

Jon   July 30th, 2008 5:49 am ET

Franko, while I personally don't see a problem with the atomic battery. In this day and age of fearmongering, the thought of everyone having access to radioactive material would drive our government batty. Even though you could use it for X+ years without having to pay for fuel. You would destory the corner gas station. If your not buying fuel, then your not buying soft drinks, chips and candy as an impulse buy. They do not make money, as a store, on the fuel, it's the other items in the store they make their money on.   July 30th, 2008 7:15 am ET

I do not think Algae will the only future of Fuel Industry. There are many other alternates which will be there like Wind, Solar, FUEL CELLS etc.

I think future homes will be a combination of different alternates giving the least cost for energy development. The biggest problem with Algae would be Mass production.

Dave, Richmond VA   July 30th, 2008 8:53 am ET

This is where our R & D needs to be... ALGAE!

Obama 08 – Funding for the future, not the past.

Steve   July 30th, 2008 9:28 am ET

Cody is so adorable! Thank you for having such a character on the road trip, as it's definitely kept my interest!

Joe   July 30th, 2008 9:34 am ET

Another benefit to using alga for diesel – wastewater can be used in the process, the algae beakdown the pollutants. These amazing creatures can clean wastewater, remove CO2 from the atmosphere and produce fuel and nutrient products. They are some of the fastest reproducing organisms on earth. They can be grown in deserts where there is plenty of sun, letting our agriclutrual lands beused for they should be used for – food. Lot's of promise in algae.

Richard Zimmerman   July 30th, 2008 10:56 am ET

This is a truly fantastic endeavor– as long as it is about algae... and not palm oil. Business interests are trying to push pal oil as an alternative fuel without giving the full picture. (95% of palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, where old growth rainforests are clearcut in order to make way for industrial oil palm plantations the size of small cities. When the forest is cut down, along with the peat bogs on which they sit, the quantity of carbon is released into the air is far more destructive than the fuel emissions form every SUV in America combined. This massive deforestation has bumped Indonesia up to number 3 on the list of carbon-emitting nations– right behind the US and China.
Along with the destruction, every living being in the forest is killed. One of these innocent victims is the orangutan– whose numbers are dwindling to the point of no return. They are being slaughtered in the thousands by palm oil interests...

I run a non-profit organization in New York dedicated to protecting wild orangutans and saving them from extinction. I invite everyone reading this article to visit our website to learn more:

In the meantime, keep up the great work. GO ALGAE!

Richard Zimmerman
Director, Orangutan Outreach
Reach out and save the orangutans!

michael bender   July 30th, 2008 4:37 pm ET

The sooner alga for fuel is taken seriously, the sooner the destruction of forest for palm oil will end, the sooner air pollution will decrease and big oil interests will lose their strangle hold on the citizenry.

michael bender   July 30th, 2008 4:50 pm ET

WOW! I didn't even think of the dead zone alga in the gulf.

As I understand it that stuff is choking the life out of the water.
If the right company figured out there was fuel floating on the surface that they don't have to drill for they would have barges out there in two days sucking that stuff up and clearing the water while they are at it.!!!!!

Two birds with one stone!!!!!

michael bender   July 30th, 2008 5:06 pm ET

OOPS spoke too soon, it seems the alga sink to the bottom not float. I should have googled it first. Still there might be a way to remove enough of the naturally occurring alga before they sink and die.

Franko   July 31st, 2008 12:30 am ET

michael bender has an idea to be refined to the last biofuel drop

Operate a heat engine between the top and below temperatures
One great big vacum, to suck it all up. Also try it on the bottom Methane ?

Jon   July 31st, 2008 10:05 pm ET

Ok guys, we do not want to mess with the methane ices that are along the continetial shelf. That is seriously a global catastrophe waiting to happen. Methane was our atmosphere before cyanobacteria created our current atmosphere. Methane is, figuretively speaking ,10x worse then CO2 as a greenhouse gas. And as it heats up, it sublimes strait into a gas. So, as you disturb it and warm water hits it, you lose it to the atmosphere. This is what most governments don't want let out about climate change. And think about what would happen if enough methane was release with current levels of O2, we could seriously see flashover. Mind you this last part is hypothetical.

Either way, it seems that everyone wants a solution for the now, instead of thinking far ahead.

As for vacuaming up the algae on the bottom, first thing we need to know is if it's the proper algae to produce biofuel. There are tons of different spieces of algae.

Franko   August 1st, 2008 12:09 am ET

" Methane is, figuretively speaking ,10x worse then CO2 as a greenhouse gas" - 10X very little is still little.

Meteorologist Reid Bryson:"You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide."

Methane events, in the past, any noticeable effects ?
Swallowed a ship, or stalled an engine, in the Sargasso sea ?
There are underwater Methane ice glaciers, Next golden energy rush ?

Greenhouse gas effects are limited.

Jon   August 1st, 2008 7:26 am ET

Franko check out this Wiki.

This is what could happen. And I mis qouted, in the short term, 20 yrs, methane is 62x more potent as a greenhouse gas, and over a 100 yrs, it drops to 23x more potent. While this may not seem like much, as methane is released it also lowers the available O2 when the methane oxidizes into CO2 and Water.

Franko   August 1st, 2008 3:27 pm ET

Good link !
Extreme urgency ! Burn Methane Burn ! Or soon extinct are US ?
Before an extinction event space rock smacks up Methane to the atmosphere.

Positive warming tipping point events are limited by energy incoming.
According to Ferenc Miskolczi, no positive feedbacks in his minimalistic theory.
Google:"New Evidence for a Planetary Temperature Regulator"
Conclusion, Gardian Angel Mother Gaia will help if we hel ourselves.
Choose life not death !

Burn Methane now, or have your gandchildren extiction evented later

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