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Biofuel investors hot for pond scum

Sarah Gardner Oct 23, 2008
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Bill Radke: Today in Seattle, a group of scientists, investors and entrepreneurs gather for the second annual Algae Biomass Summit, looking at algae as a biofuel. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner reports on algae’s potential.


Sarah Gardner: Algae is a green muck, but it can produce oil, and has the potential to produce lots of it for biodiesel someday.

Brian Fan at the Clean Tech Group, says algae’s enjoyed a huge surge in venture capital investment this year.

Brian Fan: I think a lot of it really is a recognition that other types of biofuels have serious challenges and rely on some form of agriculture.

Which means competing with land for food. Algae, on the other hand, can be grown in open ponds or industrial-size tanks. But experts say mass production of any biofuel is still five to 10 years away.

Industry consultant John Sheehan:

John Sheehan: These algae have to be able to grow at least five times more productively than they currently do.

Maybe that’s why even the keynoter at today’s summit hasn’t invested in pond scum yet. But Vinod Khosla’s assistant tells us the famed venture capitalist “keeps looking.”

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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