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Google Cash Powers Up CoolPlanet Biofuels

Out of all the biofuel players in the market, why is CoolPlanet getting so much attention?

CoolPlanet Biofuels

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CoolPlanet Biofuels, a startup that churns out biofuel from cellulosic waste (think plant waste and woodchips) just snagged an undisclosed amount of cash from Google Ventures in its Series B round of funding. This comes after an $8 million funding round last year, which included GE and North Bridge Venture Partners. Out of all the biofuel players in the market, why is CoolPlanet getting so much attention?

CoolPlanet claims that it can develop “carbon-negative fuels” that can replace gasoline found in cars in the road today. The company’s secret sauce is a thermal/mechanical processor that extracts hydrocarbons from biomass, leaving behind excess carbon in solid form. That biochar can be sequestered and used as a soil conditioner or burned as a coal substitute. CoolPlanet explains:

The process generates activated carbon with a very high
surface area which will allow it to be used as a soil enhancer similar
to “terra preta.” By burying this carbon in an appropriate manner, we
can greatly enhance soil fertility while sequestering carbon for
hundreds of years. In contrast, normal plant decomposition occurs in
just a few years, releasing the plant’s carbon as CO2
and even more harmful methane gas. Our process yields about the same
amount of carbon as gasoline so, if we sequester this carbon as a soil
enhancer, or simply bury it as coal, the associated fuel has a N100 Negative Carbon Rating.

This fits right into Google Ventures’s motto of investing in disruptive companies that change the world for the better. Other companies (including Carbonscape) produce biofuel with a biochar byproduct, but CoolPlanet is by far the most prominent. And with a global fuel market of $4 trillion each year, there is plenty of money to be made.

Google Ventures’s other environmentally related investments include WeatherBill, Next Autoworks, and Silver Spring Networks.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Ariel Schwartz can be reached by email.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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