Intelligent Energy

Ford backs algae biofuel research

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A Ford research scientist told CNET.com that algae has some of the characteristic necessary to become a viable source of renewable fuel - if production challenges could be overcome.

Algae has traditionally been viewed as a nettlesome problem that chokes our waterways, but its now it is increasingly being looked toward as a solution to replace oil with a "greener" fuel source. Ford, the originator of car culture, is jumping at the opportunity, CNET.com reports.

There are numerous characteristics that make algae appealing as a feedstock for biofuel including its year-round harvest season, the ability to grow in any water source, and algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world.

While the concept of using algae as a fuel source has been around for decades, it is becoming a draw for researchers as the economics -- and politics -- of oil have changed. A researcher's green gilded play thing today may be what fuels your car tomorrow.

Solazyme, a company that produces oil from green algae, announced that it had raised US$52 million in series D financing in August. Even NASA has been recently experimenting with growing algae to produce jet fuel.

Ford recognizes the value of algae's fuel friendly characteristics and wants to show its support for any process that would lead to commercial scale production of algae based biofuel, Ford research scientist Sherry Mueller told CNET.

Mueller hedged her remarks saying that algae researchers were still hard pressed to "find economical and sustainable ways for commercial-scale controlled production and culturing of high oil-producing algae."

Ford's investment in biofuels is not casual; it's part of the company's long term business strategy. The automaker was today ranked among the best positioned U.S. businesses that will excel in the coming carbon conscious business environment.

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David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure