So which is it? Do we know how to develop this as a fuel or do we have to figure out how to make energy out of it? And where does he get the 17% from if we don't know how to do it?
That's like me saying: "I can increase the amount of gold in Fort Knox by 17% if we can just figure out how to turn garbage into gold." It is meaningless drivel.
83.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
The issue is getting the price down to the point that algae based fuels are economical without subsidy. That is attracting a lot of research effort, from private industry as well as government. In principle, production from algae is scaleable to industrial levels, doesn't require prime farmland, and doesn't require clean water. There are lots of places to put it, and the production potential is huge -- provided, again, that the cost can be reduced.
Algae, like ethanol, has the advantage of being compatible with internal combustion and diesel engines and the existing logistical system. (Yes, the engine manufacturers need to shift to conforming materials, but that is easily done. They should just do it.) Biofuels don't require a leap of faith to a whole new technology, such as electrics or hydrogen fuel cells. They can enter the market as additives and fuel extenders, and grow as production expands. Drill, frack, grow ... I don't much care, as long as we put OPEC out of business at reasonable cost, and to do that, I expect that we'll need all three. Ethanol now accounts for 10% of the U.S. gasoline supply by volume, and we're headed toward E15. If algae becomes price competitive, biofuels' market share will grow even more.