The references to algae as a climate changer is beginning to do the media’s exponential growth – and flourish like a dank warm pond covered with … uhh, algae. First, the July 25-31st issue of the New Scientists has a story about Geneticist Craig Venter and research he is doing with a bunch of big oil companies including Shell and Chevron[Venter is predicting scale up in 5 years]. Then Scientific American has a notable news article about Exxon Mobil’s $600M committment to Algae research. I pooh, poohed this as the last ploys of Exxon’s DeNile project – holding out hope for renewable oil extraction but still leaving CO2 emissions, the real climate change culprit, outstanding and warming the Poles to wet Washington’s tippy toes.
But now MIT’s Technology Review does a more complete scan of whats up and the role of Craig Venter – and it looks like algae is favored by a number of major oil company and biofuel players. One of the attractions is that algae draw significant CO2 quantities and are relative easy to genetically manipulate for specific effects. The latest news from the NYTimes seems to confirm many of the conjectures as start-up Aurora Biofuels doing research in Florida has genetically engineered algae that a)can use CO2 enriched feeds from power plants and other CO2 polluting sources, b)absorb CO2 at different levels of sunlight more efficiently and c) have their algae absorb significant quantities of CO2 emissions. Aurora has $25 million in funding to build a large scale plant to process oil out of algae feeds targetted for the mid 2011 start-up testing. It appears that Growing … uhh, Going Green is starting to really take off.