Algae-Based Biofuels: More of President Obama's Green Cronyism

On February 23rd, President Obama gave a speech on his energy plan, where he discussed the importance of green energy. In particular, and laughably to many, he discussed the idea of algae based biofuels.

As the Washington Examiner reports:

“We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance, algae — you’ve got a bunch of algae out here,” Obama said at the University of Miami today. “If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing alright. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in America.”

The Department of Energy (DOE) currently spends about $85 million on 30 research projects “to develop algal biofuels,” according to the White House, which announced that Obama is committing another $14 million to the idea.

President Obama’s time in office has been one energy failure after another—all at the expense of the American taxpayer. Solar panel company, Solyndra, of course is a prime example of the failure of green cronyism. The Obama administration extended billions in Department of Energy dollars to one of his bundlers, George Kaiser, only for the company he invested in to fail.


General Motors, bailed out by the American taxpayer in 2009 and subsidized still today, is responsible for the fire prone and inefficient electric car—the Chevy Volt. As Governor Sarah Palin rightly noted on Friday, President Obama’s energy solutions “coincide with subsidizing his friends and campaign donors”. Plans for algae-based biofuels will likely be yet another example in green cronyism infused energy policy. In fact, it already has been.

In December, I wrote a piece here at Big Government noting that the Department of Defense was investing $500 million in algae based biofuels for the Navy. The company developing this fuel is Solazyme, whose current strategic advisor is T.J.Glauthier. Glauthier was part of President Obama’s transition team and was heavily involved in the energy portion of the stimulus bill in 2009. Solazyme’s Chairman, Jerry Fiddler, hasdonated over $200,000 to Democrats since 2008, including more than $30,000 to President Obama’s re-election campaign. This Department of Defense “investment” in Solayzyme translates to fuel prices of $16 a gallon—four times the price of oil. Solazyme also received a $21.8 million grant from the stimulus package.  Despite the cash infusion from both the stimulus program and more recently the Department of Defense, Solazyme reported a net loss of $15.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. While the Obama administration announces a "mere" $14 million more for research on algae based biofuels, it is important to note that they have given more than half a billion dollars to Obama’s cronies and donors for this newest green venture that is already struggling.

Algae based biofuels, just like grain and wood based ethanol and solar panels, have proven to be inefficient both in their production and their consumption. A study at the University of Virginia notes that production of algae based fuels requires more water and more petroleum based energy in the process than other biofuels. In his speech, President Obama noted that algae based fuels can be used as jet fuels, but a study at MIT“found that even under optimal conditions — with dozens of refineries up and running — the price of bio jet fuel would still be twice as high as the cost of the traditionally made stuff. “ The fuel has proven to be both energy and financially inefficient.

President Obama’s plan for turning pond scum to energy may be laughable at face value, but the inefficiency of the algae based biofuel coupled with the past and potential future cronyism of the Obama administration is no laughing matter. It has already cost American taxpayers more than half a billion dollars. The only thing truly about the Obama administration is the recycled cronyism.


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