ExxonMobil Bets on Algae in First Major Biofuel Investment
photo: Lee Nachtigal
Long maligned by the green community for its environmental record and perceived lack of support for renewable energy, not to mention funding climate change deniers, ExxonMobil has announced that it will be placing its money on algae biofuels, investing up to $600 million in a multiyear partnership with Synthetic Genomics. In its press release, Exxon said that the partnership will develop biofuels from algae that are compatible with today's gasoline and diesel engines:That really should probably read 'compatible with existing infrastructure' as Synthetic Genomics' goal is developing biofuels from algae with 'superior properties compared to ethanol and biodiesel.' Which means biofuels that are chemically identical to gasoline and diesel fuel and could be mixed in with the regular petroleum-based fuel supply—certainly a leg up on ethanol and biodiesel in the eyes of an established oil company.
Emil Jacobs, VP of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering touted the benefits of algae:
After considerable study, we have determined that the potential advantages and benefits of biofuel from algae could be significant. Among other advantages and benefits of biofuel from algae could be significant. Among other advantages, readily available sunlight and carbon dioxide used to grow the photosynthetic algae could provide greenhouse gas mitigation benefits. Growing algae does not rely on fresh water and arable land otherwise used for food production. And lastly, algae have the potential to produce large volumes of oils that can be processed in existing refineries to manufacture fuels that are compatible with existing transportation technology and infrastructure.
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