Carbon regulations implemented by governments of developed countries are prompting major oil businesses to invest in green fuels, particularly those that involve nonfood sources such as cellulose and algae. Biofuel startups benefit not only from the deep pockets of petroleum companies, but they can also learn management skills necessary in operating large-scale commercial ventures, said Verenium CEO Carlos Riva. Big Oil's spending for renewable fuels, however, is "less than peanuts for them, given the size of their investment budgets," said Steen Riisgaard, who heads Danish enzyme company Novozymes.

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