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Exxon set to invest in biofuel alliance

EXXON Mobil Corp said yesterday it will make its first major investment in greenhouse-gas reducing biofuels in a US$600 million partnership with biotech company Synthetic Genomics Inc to develop transportation fuels from algae.

Despite record-breaking profits in recent years, the oil and gas giant has been criticized by environmental groups, members of Congress and even shareholders for not spending enough to explore alternative energy options.

One of the company's requirements was finding a biofuel source that could be produced on a large scale.

It says photosynthetic algae appears to be a viable, long-term candidate. If the alliance is successful, pumping algae-based gasoline at Exxon service stations is still several years away and will mean extra, multibillion dollars for mass production.

"This is not going to be easy, and there are no guarantees of success," Emil Jacobs, a vice president at Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering Co, told The Associated Press. "But we're combining Exxon Mobil's technical and financial strength with a leader in bioscientific genomics."

The US$600 million price tag includes US$300 million for Exxon's internal costs and US$300 million or more to La Jolla, California-based Synthetic Genomics - if research and development milestones are successfully met.



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