San Diego is widely recognized as one of the world's leaders in biofuels research and development. An analysis, conducted by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), found that for the algal biofuels sector alone, the industry provides the region with 410 direct jobs and $56 million in direct economic activity and $108 million in total economic activity annually.
Yes, algae, the substance known to many as "pond scum," may one day be the fuel that powers U.S. automobiles.
"That's what petroleum is - it's ancient algae," said Dr. Stephen Mayfield , a professor of biology at UC San Diego and director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology. "Algae already makes oil that looks like crude oil. The oil we extract from algae goes directly into a refinery and gets converted into diesel or gasoline."
If algae is to be the solution for America's pain at the gas pump, more trained workers are needed to make that a reality. Educational opportunities exist for those that are interested in an entry level job (see MiraCosta College's options) and those with experience in chemistry or biology that are interested in laboratory-based work or in positions supporting this growing industry (check out UC San Diego Extension's biofuel certificate).
"These programs not only train workers for new jobs in the local economy, it will eventually help our nation become less dependent on foreign oil," said Mayfield. "The bioenergy sector will eventually be creating millions of jobs nationwide. Our biggest challenge will be to keep those jobs in California."
“It's critical that we build the research and development infrastructure for the biofuels industry here," said Mayfield. "Right now, we have a head start on the rest of the world and we can't afford to lose that."