That's what Porter is trying to do with Primafuel. The three-year-old start-up is developing techniques to rate different kinds of biofuels, from field to fuel tank. Corn ethanol made at a refinery powered by coal, for example, may have a net negative impact on the environment compared with the same fuel produced at a refinery powered by biomass but there's no easy way for consumers or the government to know that. "That accountability is the direction that biofuels have to go," Porter says. "We have the infrastructure to track the values of those fuels."
Primafuel is applying the same expertise at home. The company has a parallel venture developing its own next-generation fuels, including a promising, cheap biofuel made out of algae, a hardy fuel source that can grow almost anywhere, even the desert. That would help quiet critics who argue that biofuels made from corn or sugarcane take away valuable land from growing food. Primafuel plans to begin production at a 60 million-gal. biodiesel plant in Sacramento, Calif., in 2009. Funded in part by the California Air Resources Board, the facility's recycling process will ensure that Primafuel's biodiesel is up to 83% less carbon heavy than standard diesel, making it the cleanest available fuel on the market, at least for now. When something better comes along, Primafuel will be keeping score.