Now that oil companies have finally acknowledged the prospect of peak oil, we're seeing longtime biofuel holdouts investing heavily in biofuels—and more specifically, algae-based biofuels. Exxon announced last month that it is plunking down $600 million for a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, and now BP is joining the algae fuel club with a $10 million investment in Martek Biosciences.
The two companies will work together to use Martek's "unique algae-based technologies and intellectual property for the creation of sustainable and affordable technology for microbial biofuel production." Martek and BP haven't decided for certain if they will use algae or another efficient microbe to convert sugar into biofuels. But once the perfect microbe is found, BP and Martek will use it to turn biomass (i.e. wood chips and sugar cane) into biodiesel.
From the looks of it, algae fuel is poised to be a major player in the biofuel industry. BP cut its solar, wind, and other biofuel investments this past February, and in July the company announced it will only invest in alternative-energy projects that bring worthwhile financial returns. And in the past, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has ridiculed biofuels as "moonshine." So if both of these oil giants are investing in algae fuel, we should all keep a close eye on the technology too.