The other day I saw this article in Scientific American. Exxon Mobil, one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world, have recently announced they are putting US$600 million into research on new biofuels from algae.
They fall into several categories. 1st generation biofuels, made from sugar, starch, or vegetable oil, have come under a lot of criticism because they are made from food crops, diverting food away from the human food chain which is quite controversial given the growth of the world’s population.
A NZ company, Aquaflow Bionomic is active in this area. They produce biodiesel in the Nelson/Marlborough area. As the article points out, Exxon Mobil’s investment goes a long way to validating their choice of technology.
Exxon Mobil is conducting this research in conjunction with a company called Synthetic Genomics in the USA. My question is, why not in NZ? I froth at the mouth with the prospect of US$600 million being pumped into a technology like this. Especially one that NZ’ers are already successfully involved in! With the right amount of money, NZ could really turn itself into a hotbed of biofuel/CleanTech innovation. I’m not sure of the duration of the EM/SG research program, but when you consider that the NZ Government’s TOTAL research spending last year was about NZ$900 million, you can see that our commitment to advancing this type of science and technology is really quite laughable. Aquaflow are rumored to be involved with Boeing and a number of other big multinationals. Lets hope so, because the money obviously isn’t going to come from the NZ Government.