Obama Administration Renews Funding for Bioenergy Research

Yahoo Contributor Network

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it will continue to fund its three bioenergy research centers for another five years. The funding is subject to congressional appropriations. Here are the details.

* The three centers include the BioEnergy Research Center led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University, and the Joint BioEnergy Institute led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

* The centers were established in 2007 and have produced more than 1,100 peer-review publications and over 400 invention disclosures and/or patent applications, the Department of Energy stated.

* The centers were initially granted an investment of up to $375 million by the Bush administration with the intention of accelerating basic research in the development of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels as part of President Bush's Twenty in Ten initiative, which sought to reduce U.S. gas consumption by 20 percent in 10 years, the department reported in 2007.

* The centers were to be supported by multidisciplinary teams of top scientists with a major focus of understanding how to reengineer biological processes to develop new, more efficient methods of converting the cellulose in plant material into ethanol or other biolfuels, the department stated.

* Later in 2007, an additional $30 million was invested into the centers to accelerate their start-up, according to the department. Then-Under Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach stated that "for the sake of both our nation's energy security and the health of our environment, we need major alternatives to imported oil and fossil fuels, and we need them soon."

* Energy Secretary Steven Chu said this week, "Developing the next generation of American biofuels will enhance our national energy security, expand the domestic biofuels industry, and produce new clean energy jobs."

* Chu added that the research would help American farmers and create new opportunities for wealth creation in rural communities, while reducing the country's reliance on foreign oil.

* Each center is funded at a rate of $25 million a year, the department reported, and the next five years will be spent focusing on developing new lines of research and "accelerating the transformation of scientific breakthroughs into new technologies that can transition to the marketplace."

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