DOE To Invest $250 Million In New Bioenergy Research Centers

Investment will help to reach goal of replacing 30 percent of transportation fuels with biofuels by 2030.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman has announced that DOE will spend $250 million to establish and operate two new Bioenergy Research Centers to accelerate basic research on the development of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels. 

The Secretary made the announcement with Congressman Jerry Weller (IL-11th), local officials and biofuels stakeholders during a visit to Channahon, IL.

“This is an important step toward our goal of replacing 30 percent of transportation fuels with biofuels by 2030,” Secretary Bodman said.  “The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) calls for the creation of new programs to improve the technology and reduce the cost of biofuels production.  The mission of these centers is to accelerate research that leads to breakthroughs in basic science to make biofuels a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels.”

Four billion gallons of ethanol were produced this year, mainly from corn.  EPAct requires that by 2012, at least 7.5 billion gallons per year of renewable fuel be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.  To meet these goals, future biofuels production will require the use of more diverse feedstocks including cellulosic material such as agricultural residues, grasses and other inedible plants.

Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations and private firms are eligible to compete for an award to establish and operate a center.  Awards, based on evaluation by scientific peer review, will be announced next summer.  The centers are expected to begin work in 2008 and will be fully operational by 2009. 

The centers’ mission will be to conduct systems biology research on microbes and plants, with the goal of harnessing nature’s own powerful mechanisms for producing energy from sunlight.  A major focus will be on understanding how to reengineer biological processes for more efficient conversion of plant fiber, or cellulose, into ethanol, a substitute for gasoline. 

Additional details on the funding opportunity and the centers’ objectives are available at: http://www.doegenomestolife.org/centers.

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