The lowly algae may soon be a useful biofuel and a source of animal feeds but only if the agricultural and energy sectors focus their efforts on tapping it, the Philippine government said.
Sen. Edgardo Angara made the call after Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said government is looking into algae as a possible biofuel substitute for jatropha.
"A lot of research still needs to be conducted before algal biofuels can be as cheap as fossil fuels. But algae are already utilized for nutraceuticals and animal feeds for their proteins and omega-3 fatty acids.
“We may not have to put up subsidies for algal R&D in biofuels, because a processed algae industry in the country may already be lucrative in itself," said Angara, who chairs the Senate committee on Science and Technology (COMSTE).
No food competition
Besides, he pointed out algae does not immediately draw away from the arable lands used in growing food.
He noted the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2011 showed pro-biofuel policies, particularly those from the US government in support of corn ethanol, were a major factor in food price spikes that exacerbated world hunger.
"The report called for the removal of the biofuel subsidies that had made prices more volatile. For sure, any effort to find alternatives to fossil fuels should not jeopardize any attempt at staving off hunger," he said.
Algae research institute
Earlier this month, Almendras indicated the Philippine National Oil Co.-Alternative Fuels Corp. (PNOC-AFC) had scrapped plans to cultivate jatropha as a biofuel source.
COMSTE proposed the establishment of the Philippine Institute for Algae Research and Commercialization (PINARC).
The PINARC will become an innovation cluster, a three-way partnership between government, the academe and industry, in algal R&D.
“Our climate is literally ripe for an algae industry. But the only way for such an industry to grow is through synergy among our government agencies, universities and private sector players," said Angara.