ExxonMobil's Algae Exploration

ExxonMobil's (XOM) plunge into alternative energy doesn't mean it is going green. Instead, like its recent decision to proceed with a relatively high-polluting Canadian oil shale project, Exxon's entry in algae-to-fuel research demonstrates yet again its willingness to weather criticism while it pursues a go-it-alone strategy toward investment.

On July 14, Exxon announced that it would spend at least $300 million in an algae-to-fuel research and development deal with J. Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics--the oil giant's first big investment in biofuels. Previously, CEO Rex W. Tillerson ruled out the prospects for corn-based ethanol, which he called "moonshine," and said that no other current alternative fuel technology is worth investing in, either.