Even though Scientific American called algae or, rather “oilgae” a promising new biofuel, with preparations for widespread use being made in the airline industry, at least where people weren’t involved, its still a hell of a long way from becoming anything close to a reasonable alternative to fossil fuels.
So why the f*** is it suddenly Barack Obama’s favoritest thing ever?
After delivering a speech on it in Florida, the President’s close allies have been harping on the possibilities held by algae for weeks now, even as other alternative fuel investments have gone to sh*t in very public ways (Solyndra pretty much even destroyed their office furniture for fear it might end up carrying on the horrific stench of failure to a new company). Well, as it turns out, while the 2012 campaign is suffering from a lack of big donations, possibly the result of constantly barraging corporate entities with criticism right before requesting a donation, the people who stand to make some cash from Big Algae, might be looking to write big checks.
Which is why Obama’s all over them like self-tanner on John Boehner.
President Obama’s most recent green energy fixation—algae—may suffer from the accusations of cronyism that have plagued his broader effort to promote non-fossil fuel energy sources through massive federal subsidies.
Solazyme, a San Francisco-based firm that specializes in the plant matter, has received more than $25 million in federal grants and contracts as part of Obama administration’s controversial stimulus package, and is poised to receive millions more as part of the president’s recent efforts to promote green biofuels such as algae.
The firm employs a former member of the Obama-Biden transition team who, according to one online bio, “played a key role in developing the energy provisions in the economic stimulus bill.
The board of directors of Solazyme have, for the most part, made sizable donations to Democrats, and were one of the major recipients of funds under the $787 billion stimulus bill, which was pretty quickly determined to be a kickback to big time Obama donors. Of course, Solazyme has gone on to win major defense contracts, including one that was a major part of the Navy’s Green Strike Group war games initiative.
The contract is worth $12 million, which works out to about $27 per gallon, or nearly seven times the cost of the Navy’s standard JP-5 fuel. However, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said the Navy will pay about $15 per gallon for the biofuel, which is still roughly four times the cost of conventional fuel.
The contract was arranged using the Defense Department’s procurement authority as part of the president’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign.
The good news is, of course, that Solazyme has lost something like $16 million in 2010, and has been since forced to diversify its products so as to stem the hemorrhage of money that has occurred as a result of its algae concentration. They make makeup and diet pills now, and their stock price hovered around $7 in October.
So the investments the government’s making are coming at the perfect time.