Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bill Gates invests in algae fuel

Bill GatesArguably the world's most famous billionaire dork, Bill Gates, has just plopped some cash down on one of EcoGeek's favorite technologies...algae fuel.

Sapphire Energy, which hopes to create fuel for cars from algae, is undergoing series B financing, and Gates and several other large investment companies brought up Sapphire's total invested capital to $100 M.

That's a pretty good hunk of change, but when you're trying to replace a trillion dollar industry, it's not so impressive.

Algae is especially good at creating fats using only the energy in the sun and carbon dioxide from the air. Some aglaes have been engineered to actually be more fat than algae (sounds like a pretty American idea.) The fat can then be refined into biodiesel with a much smaller footprint than current crops like soy, corn or rape. Tons of new startups are working on this particular solution to our problems, and so far I like what I'm seeing.

Sapphire wants to refine the fats directly into gasoline that could be used in today's vehicles. That possibility is very enticing for investors, as it could go to market immediately. But the best-case estimates predict that Sappire's "Green Crude" won't be on the market for three to five years.


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