A research team at the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut has been conducting investigations on algae along the Lebanese coast. The goal of these activities is to identify various types of algae that could provide a source for nutrition and renewable energy. The research is part of a larger EU-funded project that aims to identify potential sources of renewable energy in Lebanon and other countries on the Mediterranean (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Egypt). The research found that some of the algae were an excellent source of protein and other nutritional supplements. The preliminary results seem promising, as high levels of omega-3 and anti-oxidants were found in micro algae off the coast of Byblos. The potential for renewable energy is still not clear.
One of the main criticisms of using crops such as maize for biofuels as sources of renewable energy is that they take over arable land which affects food supply. Using algae as a bio-fuel overcomes this problem. How suitable is using algae as a source of energy for developing countries like Lebanon? On the surface it seems like a very attractive option, especially in a country where energy demand exceeds supply. A study conducted by MIT found that even though developing countries may benefit from this resource, many of these countries do not have the technical know-how to develop and maintain them. In any case, the long term financial, technical and environmental options need to be analyzed to decide what is the most effective and sustainable use of this resource.