Part of the pain of high gasoline prices is knowing that people in another part of the world have you over a metaphorical barrel. And no one, not even your president, can do anything about it.
The appeal is strong, then, of a fuel that could be homegrown, produced cheaply and used to thumb our collective noses at foreign oil lords.
Algae is not that fuel yet -- it's still too expensive -- but the potential is there.
In September 2009, a modified Toyota Prius completed a cross-country trip from San Francisco to New York with the help of an algae-based gasoline. The "Algaeus," a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle, made the 3,750-mile (6,035-kilometer) trek in just 10 days (allowing time for publicity stops). Sapphire Energy, one of the major companies working to develop algae as a cost-effective fuel, provided the proprietary mixture of algae-based gasoline for the trip. The concoction ran in the Algaeus without having to modify its engine and according to the drivers, "performed flawlessly" [source: Sapphire Energy].
Besides making a great headline, the journey of the Algaeus suggests that algae-based gasoline could one day become widely available as a "drop-in" fuel that runs in existing vehicles.