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Calif. company says it has developed renewable gasoline

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Photo courtesy of Sapphire Energy

(Read caption) Sapphire Energy claims that its "green crude" (shown here), derived from algae, sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, is chemically equivalent to the light, sweet crude oil that's distilled into gasoline and other fuels.

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San Diego, Calif.-based Sapphire Energy claims to have found a method of turning algae into an oil that can be refined into gasoline and other fuels that are both renewable and carbon-neutral.

A press release from the company says that their "green crude," made from algae, nonpotable water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide, requires no food crops or farmland to produce. Sapphire says that they have successfully refined this crude into a substance that is chemically identical to high-octane gasoline. It is neither ethanol nor biodiesel.

Burning this gasoline will release the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as conventional gas, but because the carbon used to make Sapphire's gas is extracted from the air and not the ground, their gas, Sapphire says, is carbon-neutral.

Of course, it's only truly carbon-neutral if you ignore any carbon emitted by processing the algae and delivering the gasoline.

Sapphire says its algae gasoline is "completely compatible with the existing petroleum infrastructure, from refinement through distribution and the retail supply chain." The only difference is that you're not pumping the stuff out of the ground, but growing it via photosynthesis.

The company has secured $50 million in funding from a number of respected investors, including ARCH Venture Partners and the Wellcome Trust, Britain's largest charity. Sapphire has also received funding from Venrock, the venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family.

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