Chapter 5: Not Your Average Pond Scum

Electric vehicles are on the way but their introduction will be slow at first. There will remain a need to find green fuel alternatives, such as ethanol, which can also replace the use of petrochemicals in the making of plastics and other materials. In Chapter 5 we visit a Florida start-up called Algenol that has come up with a clever way to grow ethanol-producing algae at an industrial scale. There is no shortage today of algae-to-fuel ventures, but most grow algae so they can be harvested – that is, killed – and squeezed of their natural oils. Algenol treats algae more like cows. It grows them on a steady diet of sunlight and carbon dioxide and then milks them alive. Founder Paul Woods came up with the unusual idea during the 1980s when he was just 22, but nobody believed it could be done at the time. Algenol is today one of the most innovative biofuel companies on the market, and its approach to producing green fuel from algae could end up setting a standard for the industry. But Woods’ journey, as you’ll read, has in many ways just begun.

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