"Agriculture and Algae Coexist Uneasily in Imperial Valley"

"CALIPATRIA, Calif. -- With 360 days a year of pure, unclouded sun, California's Imperial Valley has the potential to become the Silicon Valley of renewable energy. Assuming, for example, that a technology based on extracting oil from algae proves itself on a commercial scale, this place has much of the right stuff.

It has an overabundance of labor. The arid region bordering Mexico has a 24.5 percent unemployment rate. Of those who are employed, 15 percent work in the agriculture industry, which exists thanks to 1,500 miles of canals and enormous, historic allotments of river water. The main crops are feedstocks like alfalfa and hay and vegetables for human consumption, like lettuce, onions and sweet corn.

'Imperial ranks dead last in terms of economic vitality,' Brian Brady, general manager of the Imperial Irrigation District, told potential investors and researchers from China, India, Australia, Spain, France and the United States last week. 'We are totally motivated to bring in industry, particularly green industry.'"

Debra Kahn reports for ClimateWire in the New York Times October 12, 2009.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009