Is Craig Venter going to save the planet?

Susan Okie in The Washington Post:

Venter In a pristine white greenhouse in La Jolla, Calif., maverick molecular biologist Craig Venter is showing off tubs of dark green goop that might help rescue the planet. Winter sunlight streams through the glass roof onto rows of long, white troughs filled with algae and seawater. A little water wheel in each trough turns to keep the liquid circulating and the growing cells evenly exposed to light and to carbon dioxide-enriched air. Computers maintain a constant temperature. Giant transparent bags of algae varieties waiting to be tested hang from metal beams. This goop, Venter hopes, will someday replace oil wells, free the planet from its dependency on fossil fuels and create a near-endless supply of energy.

Jim Flatt and Paul Roessler, two senior scientists at Venter’s company, are leading guests through the greenhouse and trying not to reveal too many details about their ambitious venture. But their hypercompetitive boss, who has made a career out of shaking up the cautious culture of science — sometimes prematurely, critics say — keeps chiming in. The strategy, Roessler explains, will be to grow oil-producing algae in concentrated conditions, “to maximize photosynthetic productivity and take up greenhouse gases at the same time.” Venter jumps in: “This is our halfway house … a long way from the lab. The next phase is doing this in large outdoor facilities.”

More here.