Maybe fuel giants aren’t exempt from global sustainability efforts after all: Exxon Mobil Corp, the largest Western oil major, has agreed to invest $600 million or more in biofuel made from algae. The corporation confirmed Tuesday that it will invest in research and development of the fuel through an alliance with a private gene-based research company, Synthetic Genomics Inc.
Algae-based fuels would have a key advantage over other types of biofuels: since algae biofuels would not vie for land against food crops, they would not inflate food costs. Algae biofuels would also, obviously, have numerous advantages over fossil fuels: they would provide fuel for transportation without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
Exxon’s agreement to participate in the research came as a surprise to some, since the corporation had previously dismissed green energy (e.g. wind, solar power, and biofuels) as unprofitable. As recently as May, Exxon declined proposals requesting its investment in renewable fuels. The corporation has also expressed skepticism about alternative energy sources and questioned whether man-made climate change is scientifically accurate.
Other oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell Plc (Europe’s largest oil major by market value), are also reportedly considering research into algae biofuels. No companies expect an immediate commercial solution.