Just recently, Sapphire Energy benefited from $105 million in Department of Energy and Agriculture grants … the largest federal government award for algae ever given. But the Voice of San Diego reports that Tim Zenk, Sapphire’s vice president of corporate affairs, says these grants were really not the rule:
Zenk says recent awards to San Diego researchers are the exception, with government investment in alternative fuels falling woefully short.
“The government’s investment is very inadequate. They need to do a lot more,” says Zenk. “Private investment is another story. Venture capital firms and very large family wealth trusts like you have seen investing in Sapphire Energy are making significant investments and making this technology a reality today.”[Stephen Mayfield, director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology research consortium and a co-founder of Sapphire Energy], who has studied the molecular genetics of green algae for about 25 years, concurs that biofuel research has been historically underfunded. Part of the problem is that algae biofuel is tough to classify. Is it a plant, regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture? Is it a fuel, regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy? If algae could be used to fuel military vehicles, would it fall under the U.S. Department of Defense’s jurisdiction?
Mayfield goes on to say that biofuels are just part of the bigger picture of solar, wind, algae and even corn to replace petroleum.