Big U.S. interests such as ExxonMobil and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates are pouring investment dollars into the development of algae fuel, which they believe could be a significant alternative to fossil fuels. However, technological challenges lie ahead, as a barrel of algae fuel costs between $400 to $600 to produce. "It may take billions of dollars to set up the infrastructure," said a biofuels consultant who worked on a algae study sponsored by the Energy Department. Still, "The potential payoff is huge," one advocate notes.

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