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May 28, 2009

King Corn, Meet Big Oil

oil rig/corn fieldDrilling for oil in a corn field: will Big Oil squeeze out King Corn?Back in March, Tom Philpott flagged some moves from Shell Oil and Valero Energy (the largest U.S. oil refiner) that indicated Big Oil was falling for biofuels. Now, the NYT shows Tom had it right with a piece detailing the increasing amount of money Big Oil is spreading around to biofuel startups. This comes despite Big Oil's historical hostility to the ethanol industry. In fact, their objections to conventional ethanol might sound strangely familiar:

For decades, the big oil companies and the farm lobby have been fighting about ethanol, with the farmers pushing to produce more of it and the refiners arguing it was a boondoggle that would do little to solve the country's energy problems.

Oil companies still dislike corn ethanol, dubbing it corrosive and inefficient. Instead, their new investments are in second generation biofuels that use non-food crops, waste wood, and garbage as feedstocks.

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