San Diego, Pond Scum, and Crude Oil: Our Mayor Issues an Invitation to Sloganeers

Sometimes in this job, the stuff you hear just seems too good to be true. Like when the mayor of San Diego invites members of an audience to suggest a slogan more exciting than the one he came up with: “When you think of pond scum, think of San Diego.”

It’s not often that the mayor of a major city serves up an opportunity to respond to something like that.

Yet that’s pretty much what San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders did in public remarks last week at an event that Synthetic Genomics organized to mark the first anniversary of its partnership with the oil giant ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM). The San Diego startup is getting at least half of the $600 million that ExxonMobil is spending to develop algae that could someplace replace crude oil as a refinery raw material for the production of diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel.

There are thousands of different types of algae, so the task of identifying—or genetically engineering—the ideal algal species for making biofuels still represents a huge scientific challenge. Still, if all goes as planned, our next generation of transportation fuels could someday come from ordinary pond scum.

So it was a proud mayor who stepped to the microphone following a few introductory comments by J. Craig Venter, the human genome pioneer who is Synthetic Genomics’ CEO and co-founder.

Mayor Jerry Sanders

Mayor Jerry Sanders

“Our region, the San Diego region, has been able to gain stature as a hub for biofuels,” Mayor Sanders said. “We have more than 20 companies right now working on alternative fuels—including fuels made from used cooking oil, plant-based fuels, and then the micro-algae research being done right here. Between our first-rate research universities—UCSD and San Diego State University—and all of the research institutions up here on Torrey Pines Mesa, we believe that San Diego will soon be synonymous with alternative energy and biofuels.”

The mayor then went on to make a little joke—which now must seem like a soft pitch down the middle of the strike zone to wordsmiths everywhere.

“Now we’re still working on our slogan, after our initial efforts failed to generate excitement,” Sanders said. “So if anyone can think of something more exciting than, ‘When you think of pond scum, think of San Diego,’ we’d appreciate some help on that.”

Amid the polite laughter that ensued, an idea was born. Let’s ask the gentle readers of Xconomy to take up the offer that hizzoner so generously extended!

But first a little background.

As a popular convention and tourist destination, San Diego has promoted itself since … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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4 responses to “San Diego, Pond Scum, and Crude Oil: Our Mayor Issues an Invitation to Sloganeers”

  1. b_e says:

    My suggestions:

    America’s Scummiest City
    San Diego: America’s Koi Pond
    The City that Runs on Sunshine
    San Diego: Land of Toilet to Tank
    Pond Scum: The San Diego Treat!
    There’s a Bit of San Diego in Every Pool
    San Diego: Not Just for Whirligigs and Mosquito Larvae
    San Diego Runs on Nori

  2. Steve SpeerSteve Speer says:

    San Diego Pacific Protozoan Zone

  3. Geo. Gregoire says:

    “San Diego’s Bio Beach”

  4. Jason says:

    As a small business owner, I will be monitoring this closely.