Slimy Deals Continue Unabated in “Green” Energy

Now that the “myths” of ethanol, solar and wind energy economically replacing plain ol’ petroleum (“rock oil”) have been “busted”, the far left environmentalists have a new scam. The boondoggle is farming algae, and then extracting lipids from the cells, ostensibly to convert the lipids, a distant molecular relative of vegetable oil, into what they call “bioleum”, that still must be hydrogen enriched and refined to produce fuel. Every single step, from growing to harvesting to extraction, is prohibitively expensive. The economics make Solyndra look downright brilliant.

However, the economics don’t seem to matter when crony capitalism (which is NOT capitalism) comes into play. When it comes to algae projects, it is infuriating to see how taxpayer money is being wasted.

A company called Sunrise Ridge Algae got over $250,000 in Texas taxpayer money for developing a process to make algae-lipid-oil that would supplant conventional petroleum. The lofty goal for this quarter million dollar investment was—drum roll—

“… producing 1 kg of algae biomass and 1 kg of extracted algal oils for delivery and testing…”1

In most quarters I know—lakes, rivers, swimming pools, moist areas, power plant intakes—algae is a nuisance. However, we were going to get 2.2 pounds of it, plus 2.2 pounds (that would be about ONE QUART) of “bioleum”, which visually resembles a “heavy” grade of crude oil but with significantly less energy content. Assuming the grant money was divided, that would cost roughly $3551.00 per ounce for the “biomass” (government word for pond scum), and another cool photo-op at $500,000.00 per gallon price tag!

Okay, it was research and not commercial, so what would the proponents say the eventual commercial costs would be? (I am not against research—I spent ten years of my career in energy-related research.) From various sources, AFTER the technology is developed (it has NOT been and experiments have NOT been encouraging to date), the price per gallon of this slime-crude range from $33 to $50 dollars per gallon, ($1386-$2100 per barrel)! And that includes rosy projections ad naseum about how efficient the operations will become, etc. Even the proponents using these unrealistic estimates also add that the economics will NEVER work—unless one gives the pond scum massive “carbon credit” subsidies (think “cap and tax”) for using CO2 (plants, including algae, use CO2 to grow). I think we’ve heard this song before.

As they say on TV, “Wait, there’s more.” Sunrise was not even able to deliver on these meager promises. According to a report to the Texas Legislature,

“Sunrise Ridge Algae ceased operations. The Office of the Governor demanded of repayment of the disbursed Award pursuant to the terms of the Note (as defined in the Agreement) for failure to pursue commercialization efforts. The Office of the Governor referred this matter to the Texas Office of the Attorney General.”1

They couldn’t even deliver the one quart of usable bioleum! My used motor oil is better than this.

They also got over $500,000.00 as part of Obama’s so-called stimulus program. So taxpayers lose (again), but what happens to the recipients of the money? Apparently very little thus far. Sunrise Ridge Algae used up the money and shut down. Then a sister company (Breezy Ridge) was moved into into the Sunrise Ridge parent holding company (see two remarkably similar logos below), and the holding company still operates.

When the President recently referred to algae research “investments”, that should be yet another tip-off of another rip-off of taxpayers. In reporting this, Forbes magazine even questioned, “Obama’s Algae Energy Euphoria: Is Pond Scum A Green Scam?”

More than a bit unsettling is news that one of our Texas legislators, Rep. Rob Eissler, who is running for re-election as if he were a conservative, is now also CEO of an algae farming company (Algeternal), the pictures of which look like a green-colored Solyndra. Given the abominable economics of algae, the history of massive life-support subsidies for alternative energy boondoggles from the government, and that he sits in the state legislature—there is an enormous potential conflict-of-interest concern. Rep. Eissler should immediately disclose his Algeternal funding source(s).

Regardless, in this election season, here is a hint to voters: Promoting pond scum as a viable energy source to replace petroleum is not a conservative value.


1Report to the Texas State Legislature on the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, January 2012 p. 72.

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