The search for synthetic fuels has gained urgency as oil prices have gained altitude, but experts say reliable, cost-effective synthetics are still years away. Algae-based fuels may have the most promise, with investors pouring some $84 million so far this year into companies researching algae alternatives. The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative wants to have standards in place by year's end for 50% synthetic jet fuel, helping to further investment in alternative fuel start-ups.

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