Will Exxon Make Pond Scum Even Greener?

It seems hard to believe that Exxon has given the green light to a major alternative energy project.

But an article in today’s Dallas Morning News describes a joint venture between Exxon and Synthetic Genomics, a company led by biotechnology entrepreneur J. Craig Venter, to produce biofuels from genetically engineered pond scum.

Exxon will be investing $600 million to commercialize a process that the company says will “yield more than 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre of production each year, compared with 650 gallons for palm trees and 450 gallons for sugar canes. Corn yields 250 gallons per acre a year,” according to the DMN article.

The article adds that Synthetic Genomics “has engineered algae that produce oils in a continuous process,” quoting Venter’s explanation of the benefits of his innovation: “Traditionally, algae have been treated like a crop to be grown and harvested in a process that can be expensive and time-consuming. I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more lipids out.”

After the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the company’s unwillingness to accept its responsibility without a lawsuit (or even in the settlement of that suit), I never expected to say anything positive about that company. It will take 5-10 years for this process to come to fruition, if it succeeds at all. Still, it will make it easier for me to fill up at an Exxon station instead of continuing down the road, as I have gotten accustomed to doing.

Thanks to my online friend Ron Wade, whose humor and thoughtful approach make conservative/libertarian views worth listening to despite my usual inclination to disagree, for pointing me to this article.

Fred Bortz
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