A chemical engineer by training, Cynthia Warner, 51, was once one of the highest-ranking women in Big Oil, rising to head of global refining at BP. But working closely with the EPA on industry-wide Clean Air Act improvements and low-carbon fuels, she found herself more and more drawn toward sustainability. In February 2009, she made the leap truly “beyond petroleum,” landing at a small San Diego–based alternative-energy firm. Sapphire Energy is building a demonstration plant in New Mexico that aims to commercialize “green crude” made from algae, sunlight, and carbon dioxide–and to do it before the big boys, like Exxon-funded Synthetic Genomics.
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