Green energy challenged, but algae shows promise

It may have its critics, but an expert on energy and environmental policy says don't rule out algae.

by Chris Woodward


H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., of the National Center for Policy Analysis, says algae has some good possibilities when it comes to energy.

"The reason I think that is companies I trust are trying to bring it to the market and not because they're getting subsidies," says Burnett. "Exxon has a substantial budget for algae research, and they're trying to produce it. They point out there is a lot of good things to be said about algae, vis a vis in relation to other possible biofuels like soy diesel or corn-ethanol or even sugar cane ethanol."

Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute wrote an article entitled, "End the DoD's Green Energy Fuelishness." While that topic centered largely on the military, Green said that algae fuel is "really in the bare beginning of feasibility, and it's expensive."

In February, following a pro-algae speech by President Obama at the University of Miami, Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told OneNewsNow that "algae is not likely to be here for decades, even if it's real and you get over the volume at scale problem." At that time, algae was going for around $425 a gallon.

Even so, Burnett remains optimistic.

"You can recycle the water. You can grow algae in the same water again and again and again. It doesn't have the environmental side effects. It does use water, but it's a closed system," explains the spokesman. "So it's not constantly taken out. For the sake of comparison, I think I read Exxon said it could produce 2,000 gallons an acre, as opposed to something like 250 from corn ethanol."

Meanwhile, Burnett says algae is largely not used for food. That is a sticking point with many opponents of corn-ethanol or even sugar-ethanol.

"So, you know the point is, private companies are investing in it and Exxon is not receiving government money for its investment," says Burnett. "I say get the government out of there and let the private companies that think it's a good idea invest their dollars, and if they get a return, then their stockholders profit, America profits. And if they don't, then only the people that thought it was a good idea lose money."