Palm oil is a necessary ingredient in a wide variety of consumer products, from food to soaps. Yet it generates its fair share of controversy; naturally harvested palm oil has been linked to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, and its price is linked to sometimes-volatile commodity markets.
Unilever, the London-based maker of Dove soap and Vaseline, announced Wednesday that it will invest millions of dollars in Solayzme, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Solayzme is a biotechnology firm which believes it can replace palm oil, diesel and even jet fuel with oil harvested from algae. Unilever has faced protests related to its use of Indonesian palm oil, and the price can vary sharply.
Using leftover plant matter like sugar canes or corn husks, Solayzme grows massive tanks full of algae that create oil as a byproduct. Though the product is years of testing and certification away from roll-out into consumer products, it could deliver a promising alternative to an oil that is both environmentally damaging and increasingly expensive.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, palm oil futures for December delivery lost $13.75 to $854.50 per metric ton.
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