Could it really be possible to grow the fuel we put in our cars? If ExxonMobil
Synthetic Genomics, founded by a who’s-who of scientists including J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., and Nobel Laureate Hamilton O. Smith, M.D., is trying to use the photosynthesis in algae to make custom-designed biofuel as a byproduct. Sunlight and CO2 go in, and fuel comes out. The end product will not act much differently than biofuels and ethanol produced by Archer Daniels Midland
ExxonMobil’s alliance is strictly for research and didn’t include an equity investment. If ExxonMobil is going to get anything out of this investment, it’s going to have to succeed in creating algae biofuels. BP, on the other hand, is a major investor in Synthetic Genomics, so they have a stake in the company’s success even if hydrocarbon recovery research doesn’t work out.
I’m always skeptical when I see big oil companies investing in alternative fuels. The stench of a PR campaign can be smelled from a mile away. But the more I hear about these algae-based products, the more excited I get about the opportunity. Spending $600 million on a PR campaign is a big investment, so they’re putting research money where their mouth is.
If ExxonMobil gets this right, it may not be long until you have the option to put algae fuel in your gas tank. Maybe they can even engineer an exhaust that smells good.
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