Exxon initiated a research study in 2009 to extract fuels from algae that may be used to power internal combustion engines. Between then and today, it has spent about as much money talking about the research as it has on the research itself. It has now discreetly terminated the program.
Did you hear anything about it in the news? No, neither did I, but Bloomberg (paywall) discovered this tale.
After achieving a record $59 billion in profits in 2022, the company has decided it has milked the green fuel from algae lie long enough and shut the program down. The program was always a scam — a “scum scam” because the price of oil would need to hit $500 a barrel before algae fuels would be cost competitive.
A trial at Swansea University in Wales showed that to supply 10% of Europe’s transport fuel needs with algae would require growing ponds three times the size of Belgium. According to Climate Commentary, meeting the needs of the UK for transportation fuels would require covering 18% of all its agricultural land with algae ponds.
Already by 2020, Exxon was admitting that at best it would produce about 10,000 barrels of algae fuel a day — 0.2% of its daily output of oil. But keep in mind that decreasing emissions isn’t the issue for Exxon. The challenge is fending off meaningful remedies to the climate catastrophe. Which in this scenario means solar and wind energy. These are presently the cheapest option to create energy on our planet. They have the ability to provide tremendous amounts of energy in a very short period of time.
So why was Exxon not investing in them while appearing to be interested in algae?
“Because — and this is a vital thing to realize — sun and wind don’t match Exxon’s economic model. Exxon generates money – a record $59 billion this year — by selling you things that you burn, forcing you to buy more. Sun and wind do not meet that description. The sun provides free energy. Once your panels are set up, it gives you a new shipment every time it rises above the horizon. That’s why, from Exxon’s point of view, it’s such a dumb business.
Reference- Exxon Website & Ads, The Conversation, Bloomberg, Clean Technica, Climate Commentary