Please Note: Blog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors.

Exxon Gets Serious With Biofuels

|Includes: Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM)

As a former research biochemist at UCLA, I have long viewed biofuel as a huge waste of time, because there are not enough hamburger stands in the whole world to generate the needed grease for recycling. Ethanol was never more than expensive pork for corn producing swing states, and it’s no surprise they are going bankrupt, even with large subsidies. That’s ignoring the fact that they were burning food to power our chrome wheeled Cadillac Escalades, driving up prices for the starving masses in emerging markets. But when Exxon (NYSE:XOM) commits $600 million to move algae from the realm of science fiction to mass production, I have to sit up and pay attention. This is not a company that is interested in tree hugging or saving the world, but in the hardnosed business finding and selling energy for a profit. There is no law confining them to the oil business, and it is wise for them to find alternatives while they have the bucks to do it. Never underestimate the power of pond scum. Algae have been used for centuries to produce agar and additives for food, cosmetics, and medicines. You’re probably already eating more than you realize. According the Exxon (XOM), one acre of algae also has the ability to produce 2,000 gallons of fuel per year, compared to 650 gallons for palm trees, 450 gallons for sugar cane, and 250 gallons for corn. As any marine biologist will tell you, these simple organisms accomplish this by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide and turning it into oxygen, killing two birds with one stone from an environmentalist’s point of view.  The catch is that no one has ever tried to do this on an industrial scale, and the production problems are certain to be formidable, with enormous inputs of water and nutrients required. Of course, you probably wouldn’t want to live next door to where this is happening. But if we have to hold our nose to beat the next energy crisis, so be it.