‘Under the gleam of blinding lamps, engulfed by banks of angrily frothing flasks, Makoto Watanabe is plotting a slimy, lurid-green revolution. He has spent his life in search of a species of algae that efficiently “sweats” crude oil, and has finally found it.
Now, exploiting the previously unrecognised power of pondlife, Professor Watanabe dreams of transforming Japan from a voracious energy importer into an oil-exporting nation to rival any member of Opec. [..]
Professor Watanabe’s vision arises from the extraordinary properties of the Botryococcus braunii algae: give the microscopic green strands enough light – and plenty of carbon dioxide – and they excrete oil. The tiny globules of oil that form on the surface of the algae can be easily harvested and then refined using the same “cracking” technologies with which the oil industry now converts crude into everything from jet fuel to plastics.’