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With Fronds Like This, We Could Feed the World’s Cars

Cleverness comes from looking at a situation in a whole new way. Such is the case with ethanol and a group of scientists in Japan, who have announced a large-scale ethanol manufacturing plan with the main ingredient being seaweed.

Yes, that would be the stuff that grows on and under the water. Plans are already under way to build a 3,860-square-mile seaweed farm in the middle of the Sea of Japan. A farm that size could churn out 5.3 billion gallons of bioethanol a year, the scientists say, which is enough to meet a full one-third of Japan’s gasoline requirements for a year.

Sargasso seaweed is the target, and floating bioreactors that employ enzymes to convert the seaweed to sugar and then into ethanol would be employed, with tankers being used to bring the resulting product to land.

One environmentally friendly side effect of this process would be the cleaning up of the Sea of Japan, which is rather dirty at the moment. The seaweed would help eliminate the large amounts of nutrient salts running off the coasts of Japan and the Asian mainland.

The proposal was formally presented at the International Seawood Symposium (naturally), in Kobe, Japan.

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