Energy Dept. Spending $10M to ‘Unlock’ Potential of Algae

By Susan Jones | January 17, 2013 | 11:17am EST

President Barack Obama speaks to students at the University of Miami, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

( - One year after President Obama was mocked for including algae in his "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, his Energy Department is pressing ahead with efforts to turn algae into fuel.

On Thursday, the department announced "up to $10 million to help unlock the potential of biofuels made from algae."

The money will go to research projects aimed at making algae cultivation systems more productive (getting more of it per acre); and developing energy-efficient and low-cost algae harvesting and processing technologies.

The Energy Department hopes the new technologies will speed commercialization of domestically-produced, cost-competitive biofuels from algae.

Researchers from industry, academia, and national laboratories are encouraged to apply for the federal funding.

In a Feb. 23, 2012 speech at the University of Miami in Florida, President Obama vowed that "With or without this Congress, I will continue to do whatever I can to develop every source of American energy so our future isn’t controlled by events on the other side of the world."

He mentioned natural gas development -- and algae: "We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance -- algae. You’ve got a bunch of algae out here, right? (Laughter.)  If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right. "

Obama's comment drew snorts from conservatives.

"This is the kind of stuff that's Cloud Cuckoo Land," said Newt Gingrich.

Rush Limbaugh joked that Obama needed to hire a “pond-scum czar” to oversee his algae-into-energy vision.

And Charles Krauthammer wondered, "Why are we drilling for oil?" when algae is so plentiful:

"I think he's on to something here that is truly revolutionary," Krauthammer joked. "Why would you build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline with real oil from Canada to put in real refineries and put in real existing cars when you can do algae? I think he is on to something. And I think this shows the vision, the hope and change he promised in 2008."

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