The current dominant market forces are the petroleum and gas industries, a reign long held since the mid 1900s when there was a shift from coal to crude oil. The pioneer and entrepreneur who began it all was a man named Edwin L. Drake, who had used a steam engine and cable-tool drilling rig to drill the first petroleum oil well in 1859. However, his path was filled with many obstacles, and the future founding father of the petroleum oil industry spent 5 months unsuccessfully drilling for oil in Pennsylvania that earned him the nickname "Crazy Drake" and his venture as "Drake's Folly."
However, Standard Oil, with Rockefeller as head, created a precedent in many business practices, including acquisition of smaller competitors and by combining all their disparate companies spread across many states under a single group of trustees. Rockefeller integrated many other tactics, such as secret transport deals and because of its acquisition of all aspects of its trade, it would eventually lead to the passing of the Sherman Antitrust Act by U.S. Congress in 1890- just twenty years after the inception of Standard Oil. After losing its antitrust legal battles with the U.S. Justice Department in 1911, Standard Oil was broken down into smaller companies, what would be known today as Chevron and ExxonMobil.
At the time however, coal was still the dominant energy market force around the world, and petroleum oil was simply an up-and-coming competitor. In 1905, the UK produced 235 short tons of coal, and was the leading coal producer in all of Europe, with Germany as a close competitor with 121 short tons produced in the same year. The United States was the predominant coal producer in North America with 350 short tons with coal as the leading source of energy used in the United States until the 1950s when oil and gas would lead the energy industries.
However much of the UK's transition to petroleum from coal was also in part, due to what had transpired in the first World War, when former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill switched to utilising petroleum as the energy source for the Royal Navy, instead of coal.
My own father worked for many years in the U.S. oil industry and I remember as a little child visiting the oil refineries in California during special events. In the U.S., the petroleum oil industries provided stable jobs for many Americans, and there is a famous saying in Texas that I will always remember: "Oil feeds my family and pays my taxes."
In the little time that I have spent in Texas, I have found Southerners quite welcoming, humble and down-to-earth, not exactly the ignorant monsters that they are often portrayed in the media. However, with oil jobs moving abroad, many of those Texans have lost their primary source of income, but I wonder if perhaps algae biofuel (which is ideally grown in hot temperatures- such as the ideal environment of Texas) might not become the new source of those new jobs in the United States?
This system utilised photosynthesis and solar energy in transforming biofuel cells into semipermanent power generation. Japan's water-powered car utilises this biofuel cell technology.
A couple of years later, in 2006 and 2007, South Korea produced a method for directly producing biofuel using sea algae via its research by scientists at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology and in following year the UK began the world's largest algae biofuel initiative in 2008.
Algae is a type of seaweed found in the sea. They multiply quite easily and one of its advantages is that it can grow in both freshwater and wastewater (although wastewater algae has more contaminants that make it less effective for biofuel). Algae biofuel releases carbon dioxide when burnt, but unlike fossil fuel (from petroleum, gas or coal) algae biofuel releases carbon dioxide that has been recently removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis and are harmless to the environment if accidently spilled. It is completely biodegradable and do not effect other natural wildlife or environmental sources of energy.
The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae biofuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (39,000 km2), which is only 0.42% of the U.S. map or about half of the land area of Maine or roughly 4x the size of Manchester.
In 2012, The University of Birmingham created a prototype, a mini-hydrail Hydrogen Pioneer Train and this year, the University of Warwick is also creating a hydrogen powered locomotive using the biofuel cell technology.
Historically, UK pioneers have been the innovators that have pushed new technology and energy sources to the forefront of Europe. This has been the case with both coal and with petroleum and gas. The question remains, which are the companies that will bring biofuels and biofuel cell technology for public consumption into the next century?
By Sierra Choi