I’m no scientist, and I’m skeptical, but if Sapphire Energy’s claim to have produced “renewable gasoline” pans out to be all its said to be – as well as being production-feasible – then this could be a partial answer to the ongoing energy crisis. Using a system called Green Crude Production, Sapphire basically take sunlight, carbon dioxide and photosynthetic microorganisms (e.g. algae) and produce synthetic 91 octane. Apparently the end product is chemically identical to normal gasoline.
The system is theoretically superior to biofuel and ethanol because it doesn’t require swathes of farmland be turned over to growing the crops that produce those rivals. Instead, algae can be supported in non-arable land or in dirty water, and it’s claimed has the highest potential oil yield per acre. In fact the process itself is carbon-neutral.
What aren’t carbon neutral, however, are the cars and industries that are powered by gasoline. As such, even if in full-scale production (which isn’t likely for some time yet, it’s too expensive) we’d still be in the same position when it comes to global warming and general pollution; cheaper fuel could even encourage (or at least allow) people to be more profligate with their consumption. Of course, that hasn’t stopped over $50m investment into Sapphire Energy by funds and companies keen to see the reliance on imported oil come to an end.