Turning seaweed into a fuel source could help ease competition on land for growing crops.
Kelp and other seaweeds could be used for biofuel production.
Kelp grows quickly and doesn't compete with food production like land-based biofuel crops do.
So far, the difficulties of cultivating and harvesting kelp make it cost ineffective.
Kelp and other seaweed could be biofuels of the future, avoiding competition with food crops for land and scarce freshwater resources -- limitations that plague land-based biofuel prospects.
Researchers envision fast-growing cultivated kelp forests growing downward into the water, anchored on webs of rope, or porous sheets of material that roll with the waves. Offshore wind farms could be convenient places to grow seaweed biofuels in the future, some say.
So far, the process is not economical, but rising oil prices, or the possibility of first extracting higher-value products from the seaweed such as food additives or protein for fish food before converting the remainder to fuel, could change that.