The Department of Energy last week announced it will award $18 million to fund six algae-based biofuels, aiming to get the cost below $5 per gallon by 2019.

The DOE’s prodigal support for algae biofuels dates back to at least the ‘70s, though funding tapered off in the mid-‘90s as oil prices dropped. But under the Obama administration, the DOE has resumed its subsidies, at one point devoting $48.6 million for a consortium to encourage research and development.

The results remain lackluster, according to Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. Despite decades of public support, alage biofuel hasn’t even made its marketplace debut; even the DOE admits “commercial production is still a ways off.”

Kish tells IWF: “The government just keeps throwing good money after bad on its failed energy programs, in the misguided belief that politicians, lawyers and bureaucrats know more about how to make energy fuels than the private sector, which has made the U.S. the largest oil and gas producer in the world. Their conceit is impressive, even when their results are not.”

Nor is it likely to be. Even by the most optimistic reckonings, algae biofuel costs more than twice as much per gallon as good old-fashioned gasoline. Yet again, Uncle Sam rushes in where the private sector fears to tread.