Growing Our Fuel                                                      January 2015  

In This Issue
- Ethanol
- Algea Fueling your Vehicle
- Classroom Connection
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Notes from                New Hampshire

New Hampshire has their own great example of a vehicle using biodiesel fuel. Dartmouth's Big Green Bus was created in 2005 when a group of Frisbee players needed an inexpensive means of transportation to tournaments around the country.  So they bought an old school bus, painted it green, converted it to run on waste vegetable oil and hit the road.  Over time, it has evolved into a "classroom on wheels model".


Farm & Forest Expo
February 6th & 7th, 2015
Raddison Hotel
Manchester, NH

NH Science Teachers Association Spring Conference
April 11, 2015
Pinkerton Academy
Derry, NH

NH Assoc for Education of Young Children Annual Spring Conference
April 18, 2015
Plymouth State College
National Ag in the Classroom Conference
June 16-20, 2015
Louisville, KY

Debbi Cox

State Coordinator

(603) 224-1934

295 Sheep Davis Road

Concord, NH  03301


Deb Robie, 

Grafton County Coordinator

Ethanol, a renewable fuel made from plant materials, has been around for decades. Ethanol is primarily produced from feedstocks or raw materials which are starch or sugar-based with corn leading the way.  The sugar is easy to extract from corn which then goes through a fermentation reaction and
a purification process, ultimately converting it into ethanol.
Currently, 95% of the gasoline produced in the United States contains ethanol.  It is commonly included at a rate of about 10%, but some grades go as high as 90%.  These grades are designed to oxygenate the fuel and reduce air pollution.  The higher percentage ethanol fuels are targeted at today's flexible fuels vehicles. 

According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline resulting in lower fuel economy.  However, "on a life cycle analysis basis, corn-based ethanol production and use reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% compared to gasoline production and use." (1) We do need to keep in mind that 40% of the corn grown in the United states finds its way into ethanol feedstocks taking it away from our food supply or land that could be used for other crops. 
Algea Fueling Your Vehicle 
What you may think of as "pond scum" may actually be the next innovation in fuel production.  A number of large companies have invested millions of dollars to explore the potential of tapping into algea as a source of fueling our vehicles.  Like any other plant, algea needs sun, water and carbon dioxide. Unlike many plants, it doesn't need soil, it can thrive in waste or salt water, it absorbs carbon dioxide, it doesn't take up precious farmland and up to 60% of its mass comes from oils.  One acre of soybeans can produce up to 60 gallons of fuel in a year, but an acre size algea pond is capable of producing from 1,400 to 3,000 gallons of fuel each year.  
Researchers at Utah State University have created a portable floating pond so it can be tested in different environments such as wastewater treatment facilities, drainage ponds and possibly the ocean.  Once the algae is collected, it is spread out on plastic to dry for 24-hours, milled into a green powder, the oil is extracted from the powder and converted into biodiesel fuel.  Most vehicles already have the technology necessary to use this type of fuel. 
courtesy of Through the Looking Glass
Microalgae-based biofuel not only has the potential to quench a sizable chunk of the world's energy demands, say Utah State University researchers. It's a potential game-changer. "That's because microalgae produces much higher yields of fuel-producing biomass than other traditional fuel feedstocks and it doesn't compete with food crops," says USU mechanical engineering graduate student Jeff Moody. 
While primarily still in the research stage, microalgae-based biofuel could make it's debut within a few years.  As with most new technologies, it is a matter of funding and constructing sites capable of mass producing this fuel. 
Classroom Connection
The National FFA Organization, the Renewable Fuels Association and the Renewable Fuels Foundation have created a six-unit curriculum to help students understand ethanol, its effects, production and impact. Targeted towards middle school and high school.

Biomass Energy and Algea Biofuels lesson plan developed for high school AP Environmental Science classes

National Geographic video - Energy 101: Algea-to-Fuel 

(1) "Ethanol Benefits and Considerations." Alternative Fuels Data Center:. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

"Through the Looking Glass: Algae in Your Gas Tank?" Through the Looking Glass: Algae in Your Gas Tank? Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

"Algae Biofuel Can Help Meet World Energy Demand, Researchers Say." Algae Biofuel Can Help Meet World Energy Demand, Researchers Say. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

Liesik, Geoff. "USU Pond in Vernal Is Growing Algae for Biofuels." Deseret News. 5 Nov. 2011. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.
NH Agriculture in the Classroom            295 Sheep Davis Rd        Concord, New Hampshire 03301
email:          (603) 224-1934