It’s all in the flush – The time has finally come: The latest biofuel comes from your body (from your, er, waste products), so you can feel a little better next time you flush!

Companies are investing heavily in algae-based biofuels, because algae, which are grown in water, don’t compete with food crops grown on land and also tend to have higher energy yields than land-based biofuel plants. Also, algae’s high lipid content makes for efficient refinement to liquid fuels that could be used to power vehiclesBut algae production consumes more energy, has higher greenhouse gas emissions and uses more water than other biofuel sources, such as switchgrass, canola and corn. Some scientists are proposing using wastewater as a solution to some of these challenges. It would be an incredible transformation.

Researcher Andres Clarens says, “Given what we know about algae production pilot projects over the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve found that algae’s environmental footprint is larger than other terrestrial crops.”

As an environmentally sustainable alternative to current algae production methods, the researchers propose situating algae production ponds behind wastewater treatment facilities to capture phosphorous and nitrogen, which are essential nutrients for growing algae that would otherwise need to be produced from petroleum. Those same nutrients are discharged to local waterways, and current technology to remove them is expensive.

Clarens points to the 2008 ethanol boom which created a spike in corn prices worldwide and raised complex ethical issues that could have been avoided by producing separate crops for food and fuel. He says, “People were investing in ethanol refineries, but then we realized that it takes a lot of petroleum to grow corn and convert it to ethanol. By the time you get done, you’ve used almost as much petroleum to make ethanol that you would have if you just put the oil straight into your car.”

The last weekend in June, hop in a plane or get in your car and (no matter what kind of fuel you’re using) and make your way to beautiful Nashville, where the incredible Dreamland Festival in Nashville takes place every year at that time. If you missed it last year (or want to experience it again), here’s your chance, and we have special discounts for subscribers and 2009 festival attendees, who get $12.99 off the discounted price! Only one coupon per order, but it covers all sets in the order. Subscribers, your coupon is in the subscriber section. Festival attendees, you received yours by email.

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