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ExxonMobil Investing $600 Million for Algae-Based Biofuel Initiative

After years of public opposition to investing in renewable energy initiatives, ExxonMobil Corporation will invest $600 million for research and development into algae-based biofuel production. The company says it will form a partnership with biotechnology company Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) to investigate the viability of creating biofuels from sunlight, water and waste carbon dioxide via photosynthetic algae. "Meeting the world's growing energy demands will require a multitude of technologies and energy sources," says Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. Jacobs tells The New York Times that while ExxonMobil has publicly rejected renewable energy, the company has privately been investigating the sector for a number of years. "It's fair to say that we looked at all the biofuels options," says Jacobs, quoted in The Times. "Algae ended up on top." The Times says the joint venture will set up a test facility in San Diego, California, to study algae growing methods and oil extraction techniques, and may then invest billions of dollars more to bring the technology to commercial production. "The real challenge to creating a viable next-generation biofuel is the ability to produce it in large volumes, which will require significant advances in both science and engineering," says J. Craig Venter, SGI's founder and CEO.

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