Friday, June 26, 2009

Biofuels: The New Alchemy

PRECISION GROWTH: Algenol biologist Jesse Phillips-Kress tests an algae strain from the company's sun-absorbing bioreactors
Photograph for TIME by Andrew Kaufman
Paul Woods didn't blindfold me as we drove through the overgrown plantations outside West Palm Beach, Fla., but he looked as if he was considering it. Woods is the brash 46-year-old CEO of biofuels start-up Algenol — and he takes his company's secrecy seriously. Aside from officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, I was the first outsider ever to visit Algenol's modest testing facility. We turned off a country road opposite a llama ranch, and stopped at an unmarked circle of trailers in the middle of a clearing in the palm trees. There, sitting on a section of concrete half the size of a basketball court, was what Woods has been hiding from the world: several rows of long white tubs fitted with plastic windows that let in sunlight, each filled with a liquid the dark green of moss. The mixture was water and algae — microscopic plantlike organisms that feed off sunlight and carbon dioxide. With the proprietary algae happily multiplying, Woods explained that he and his partners intend to produce a biofuel greener and cheaper than oil or corn-fed ethanol: "We want to do 20 billion gallons eventually, and we will compete on price. We're a year away from sales."
Additionl Players:
Praj (India)
Balance of article: Time/CNN

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