"I think of algae cultivation as a waste-to-energy process that will benefit the economics of existing agricultural enterprises," Lammers said. "This is the first step in a long journey. Industrial ecologies capable of sustaining a population of 7 billion people for a thousand years will waste nothing and recycle everything. In the long run, that will include industrial, municipal and agricultural waste streams."

In his news conference remarks, Udall pointed out the advantages algal biofuel has over other options and the advantages New Mexico has over most other states in producing it.

Comparing algae to corn grown for ethanol, and to soybeans used for biodiesel production, Udall explained that algae production requires much less land, can be accomplished with lower quality water, results in the absorption of large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide - and it is not a food crop, so growing it for fuel production doesn't affect the food supply.

 It has plentiful sunshine, an abundance of water unsuitable for consumption or crop irrigation, and land is not scarce.

"I believe New Mexico is well-positioned to be a leader in this," Udall said. "And with policies that encourage the production of clean energy, our state can create an energy economy that leads the nation in developing the jobs of the future."

Udall shared the results of a survey of 52 Algal Biomass Organization member companies on the issue of potential job growth from legislative and regulatory parity for algae. The estimate based on this survey suggested that "explosive" job growth - more than 200,000 jobs nationwide - could be expected over the next decade if Congress puts algae on a level playing field with ethanol and other advanced biofuels.

Many of these jobs would be in New Mexico.

Jim Peach, Regents Professor of economics at NMSU, and colleague Meghan Starbuck-Downes have studied the potential economic impact of algal biofuel production. Based on their economic model, they estimate that for every 100 million gallons of algal biofuel produced in the state, 450 jobs would be created, including direct, indirect, and induced jobs. State revenues would likely be boosted by $8 million to $9 million. To put this into perspective, 100 million gallons is equivalent to about 4 percent of New Mexico's recent average yearly crude oil production.

"New Mexico is an energy state with vast reserves of oil, natural gas, coal and uranium," Peach said. "Wind and solar are significant parts of the state's energy industry. Nearly all energy analysts agree that we need to develop all forms of energy. The algal biofuels industry could become an important part of the state's energy portfolio and could have substantial economic impacts."

jrodman@nmsu.edu