Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 15:31 UK

Seaweed's potential to fuel cars

The professor believes seaweed could be a sustainable biofuel source

A Dundee University scientist is promoting the idea of using seaweed and other algae to run cars on.

Geoffrey Codd, professor of microbiology, believes the organisms are a viable source of biofuels.

He also feels the practice could help revive traditional UK industries such as harvesting seaweed.

Prof Codd's comments came after the UK Government announced a slowdown in the adoption of biofuels because of environmental and food price fears.

Concerns had been raised that valuable farming land would be used to produce plants for fuel instead of food or that rainforests would be stripped to develop the plants.

A report for ministers called for biofuels to be introduced more slowly than planned until controls were in place to prevent such land switches and higher food prices.

Algae can also grow in some of the harshest environments on Earth
Prof Geoffrey Codd
Dundee University
However, Prof Codd believes that using algae to produce biofuels would not compete for land use with food production.

Algae can also grow better than the best land crops - producing a yield that can be five to 10 times higher.

They already play an important role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and they produce a number of useful by-products.

Prof Codd said: "It [the algae] was around long before terrestrial crop plants appeared on the Earth - ranging from the single-celled plankton which grow in our seas, oceans and freshwaters, to the seaweeds on our shores.

"Algae can also grow in some of the harshest environments on Earth - in salt lakes and in desert environments where food crop plant production is not practised or even possible.

"Clearly there is no single fix in the search for sustainable biofuels and there are no quick fixes. However, algae are up there as viable and sustainable biofuel sources.

"We should give more attention to this in the current assessment of the future of biofuel production."

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