Global energy firm BP announced Friday that it has selected the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to lead a $500 million research effort to develop new sources of energy and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.
The funding will create the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), which initially will focus its research on biotechnology to produce biofuels.
At a press conference at UC Berkeley, Robert Malone, chairman and president of BP America Inc., joined California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in making the announcement.
"We are delighted to welcome UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to this effort," Malone said. "We are joining with some of the world's best science and engineering talent to meet the world's demand for low-carbon energy."
The EBI also will focus on long-term research into the production of alternative fuels, converting fossil fuels to energy with less environmental damage, maximizing oil extraction from existing wells in environmentally sensitive ways, and finding ways to store carbon so that it does not get into the atmosphere.
BP announced in June 2006 its plan to invest $500 million over 10 years "to fund groundbreaking research aimed at probing the emerging secrets of bioscience and applying them to the production of new and cleaner energy, principally fuels for road transport."
UC Berkeley invited the University of Illinois, known for its research on corn breeding and on growing, harvesting and storing crops, to participate in its proposal.
The institute, with about 25 faculty-level principal investigators housed at UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois, will concentrate on three aspects of the biomass-to-biofuel equation, including developing feed stocks, creating techniques for breaking down plant material to its sugar building blocks and finding ways of fermenting the sugars into ethanol.
Researchers from the partner institutions and BP scientists will work at UC Berkeley and at the University of Illinois, while BP and its partners will share governance of the EBI and guidance of its research programs.