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Unstrange Phenomena

24 June 2010

Big Oil Nixs Competing Aviation BioFuel: NASAs Project OMEGA

*** Big Oil finds ways to eliminate the competition from taking over any segment of the fuel market in the world.

From Denny: OMEGA is an alternative energy program experiment costing $10 million. Turns out the NASA administrator of this project, Charles Bolden, also happens to own a large share of oil stock. So, the question of the day is: Does the influence of Big Oil extend to NASA?

What the OMEGA Project is all about

OMEGA = Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae.

It's a two-fold project that is a win-win for the environment. The idea is to grow algae as an alternative energy product - as well as a waste water eater to return clean water to the ocean. The lead researcher is Jonathan Trent at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. The project has three goals in mind. They wanted to be able to produce bio fuels using few resources and in a confined area. They were keen on finding an inexpensive way to clean municipal wastewater. The third idea was to capture the greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide that are produced in this process.

Basically, they go out into the ocean and lay down huge sheets of plastic bags filled with algae. The algae is fed waste water, and, true to their algae nature they clean the dirty water, removing what is foul by using the water, solar energy and carbon dioxide to accomplish their mission. The clean water gets leached back into the ocean through the huge plastic bags because the bags are only a one-way membrane for the clean water to exit.

Algae also creates bio fuel

Did you know that as the algae cleans the water it also produces fat soluble molecules called lipids? The algae produces sugars that it converts into the lipids. Those lipids can be harvested as an alternative energy bio fuel. NASA has been in the business of algae for a long time as it can be used as a fuel for life support systems in space. That was the reason for this experiment initially rather than as an alternative fuel source to supplant fossil fuel.

What about if the algae escapes its plastic bag confines? Could it invade the oceans with a new invasive species? Scientists say there is no worry about that since this is a fresh water algae. The minute the plastic bags were compromised and the salt water came rushing in the salt water would kill the algae.

So how long do these plastic bags last in the ocean? About three years is their estimate. Researchers suggest recycling the plastic bags as mulch or chopping them to build soil and retain moisture.

Economics and replacing fossil fuel

This whole idea is an economic model that is reasonably priced and easily accessible to even the more impoverished nations. What's more this OMEGA project made a bid last year to replace aviation fuel with this bio fuel! They think they can easily produce 21 billion gallons a year for aviation fuel. They figure they need to farm about 10 million acres of ocean to fill that order.

Downside of this project?

Scientists are still concerned about the plastic, wondering how well it can withstand pounding ocean waves, the sun and the cold temperatures. This whole process depends upon osmosis and researchers wonder if the plastic can become too brittle for the process to work easily all the time. They envision maybe franchising the process, having fishermen monitoring it constantly.

Conflict of interest with NASA administrator of this project owning oil stock

All this sounds like a great idea and quite usable to benefit the whole world. The problem is that this administrator of the project was also on the board of the Marathon Oil Company who basically told him to nix the project. They advised him that "this project was not worth the investment at this time" which he was quick to repeat to the media and in his reports about the viability of this project. Bolden owns about $500,000 to $1 million in Marathon Oil stock. Hmmmm.... just a bit of conflict of interest, don't you think?

Sound familiar with every other alternative fuel project for the past 30 years? Big Oil keeps on trashing the competition with callous disregard to the environment, the world economy and world health.

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