It’s a sunny morning in Camarillo, California, and the fields along Pleasant Valley road are full of berry pickers in colored sweatshirts moving swiftly to gather ripe fruit. I take a left turn down Calle San Pablo into an unassuming industrial park, the research and development center for Cool Planet, a young company that claims it can use leftover plants to produce a miraculous fuel: a $1.50 gallon of gasoline that also bolsters sustainable agriculture and even combats climate change.

I’m here to meet Mike Cheiky, the founder of Cool Planet and a prolific inventor and entrepreneur. In 1975, he started Ohio Scientific, one of the earliest personal-computing companies. He followed that with a string of startups whose innovations included biofuels, touchscreens, batteries, voice recognition, and fuel injectors.

Cheiky’s ventures have always done well raising money. Two weeks ago Cool Planet announced a $100 million round of funding from names like Google Ventures, British Petroleum, General Electric, and ConocoPhillips. All told, his last three companies — Cool Planet, Zpower, and Transonic — have raised at least $300 million from some of the biggest players in Silicon Valley.

A cheap liquid fuel that “reverses global warming,” as Cheiky puts it, seems like a fantasy. But the venture capitalists he works with are eager to open their checkbooks for ideas that everyone but the entrepreneur deems impossible. “People always say it sounds too good to be true,” says Wesley Chan, who led Google Ventures’ initial investment in Cool Planet. “That is exactly the kind of company I get excited about as a venture capitalist. We’re in the business of making big bets.”

The company's critics agree with Chan on one thing. “People say it sounds too good to be true because it probably is,” says Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer and the managing editor of Energy Trends Insider. “What Cool Planet is claiming, that is pretty much like saying if you raise the temperature and pressure enough, you can turn water into wine.”

Cheiky’s former employees have a more troubling take. “He is either the world’s most unheralded genius, or he’s criminally insane,” says a former Transonic engineer. “One thing is for sure. He is undeniably very good at parting investors from their money.”