Experiments by scientists at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are moving forward quickly and could be producing jet fuel from algae at competitive prices by next year, the UK Guardian reported this week. "The claim ... has taken industry insiders by surprise," according to the news story. DARPA researchers have already produced oil from algae in ponds at a cost of about $2 per gallon, and could be mass-producing as much as 50 million gallons a year in 2011. DARPA is funding the research to find an algae-based alternative to the petroleum-derived JP-8 fuel used by the Air Force. If an inexpensive fuel alternative is possible, it will be considered for Army vehicles as well.
DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker told America.gov last year that algae offer the advantage of growing easily in a lot of different places. All algae needs to grow rapidly is light, carbon dioxide and water -- even salty water or wastewater will do.