U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack told The Daily Caller on Tuesday that he wasn’t sure when the cost of algae biofuel would be able to rival the price tag on a gallon of gas. Instead of answering when algae-based energy will be ready for public use without subsidies, Vilsack accused TheDC of coming at him with a “hypothetical” that was impossible to answer.
President Barack Obama has touted algae in recent speeches as a partial solution to America’s energy crunch. The idea was first floated by President Jimmy Carter. (RELATED: Obama’s campaign push for biofuels evokes Carter’s 1980 State of the Union address)
Obama pushed the algae biofuel technology in a February speech, saying, “You’ve got a bunch of algae out here, right? If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right.”
On Tuesday Vilsack praised Sapphire, an Iowa company that has received more than $100 million in taxpayer cash — including $54.5 million from Vilsack’s Department of Agriculture. Even so, Sapphire is currently behind schedule and has generated only about 36 jobs.
Vilsack did acknowledge the steep climb ahead for algae-energy advocates, saying, “There are 30,000 different types of algae, so there’s a lot of work that has to be done to figure out the most efficient uses.”
And although Obama has enthusiastically said the unorthodox energy source shows promise, Vilsack cited several other “hypotheticals” about algae’s future as a fuel source.
“Tell me what kind of Congresses we’re going to have in the future,” Vilsack said. “That’s anybody’s guess. There’s a lot of hypotheticals here.”
Adam Jablonowski contributed to this report