Exxon Mobil, the biggest oil company in the world, will invest $600 million in turning algae into fuel, the New York Times reports. Known for blowing off concerns about global warming and dismissing biofuels—its CEO famously called ethanol “moonshine”—Exxon Mobil has in fact been researching alternative fuels for years, says a VP. The current plan involves a partnership with a biotech company founded by Craig Venter, known for his work on the human genome.
Exxon says algae can produce 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre, compared to 250 for corn. But don’t expect big changes too soon: It could be a decade before we see big algae-based fuel plants, notes the Exxon VP. “This is not going to be easy.” Environmentalists say they'll reserve judgment on Exxon despite the plan. “The question is whether companies are simply paying lip service to something or whether they are putting their weight and power behind it,” notes one. After all, $600 million is a fraction of the $45.22 billion Exxon earned last year.