Synthetic Genomics partners with ExxonMobil
Synthetic Genomics, a biotech company founded 15 years ago, is headquartered in La Jolla, California, an area rich in sun and salt water ideal for algae research.
However, the company has another huge advantage in the biofuel industry. Synthetic Genomics is one of the last great biotech laboratories to have an invaluable partnership with a large company that can invest millions of dollars in research and development. That partner is ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company.
In 2017, ExxonMobil announced that it had partnered with Synthetic Genomics to use CRISPR gene editing technology to produce a strain of algae that the oil company said could pave the way for a low-carbon fuel and a sustainable future that would “reduce the risk” of climate change. “
But after years of research and so many other high-tech industry failures, some environmentalists are questioning the motives behind ExxonMobil’s ongoing research funding to find the Holy Grail: the ultimate energy-producing strain of microalgae.
In particular, critics wonder whether the fossil fuel giant (known for its longstanding climate disinformation campaigns) may be more interested in the PR and greenwashing opportunities that arise from its association with alternative biofuel technology.
Since the 2017 CRISPR announcement, ExxonMobil has used social media – including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – to share its “Miniature Science” campaign, claiming that microalgae could “power tomorrow’s trucks, ships and planes” while reducing CO2 Environment, according to a review by Joseph Winters published in the Harvard Political Review.
Analysts point out that algal biomass, whether used as a fuel, dietary supplement, or beverage supplement – in fact all algae, everywhere – is actually removing CO2 from the environment. But it is crucial that everything depends on the size. Current algae biofuel growing options can’t even begin to offset the enormous amounts of carbon ExxonMobil’s non-renewable fuels pump into the atmosphere annually – the company’s net greenhouse gas emissions were around 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2019.