DOE to invest $250 million in new bioenergy centers

Basic genomics research on the development of biofuels to be accelerated

Joliet, IL -- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced today 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.

The announcement of the Bioenergy Research Centers initiative culminates a six-year-long effort by the DOE Office of Science to lay the foundation for breakthroughs in systems biology for the cost-effective production of renewable energy. In early July, DOE's Office of Science issued a joint biofuels research agenda with the Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy titled Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol. The report provides a detailed roadmap for cellulosic ethanol research, identifying key roadblocks and areas where scientific breakthroughs are needed.

The proposal deadline for this funding opportunity is February 1, 2007. DOE's Office of Science will provide $25 million in the first year for the establishment of each center and up to $25 million per year for the following four years to support the operations of each center - for a total award of up to $125 million per center. Additional details on the funding opportunity and the centers' objectives are available at:

DOE began supporting pioneering research on microbes and microbial communities in 2000, with the objective of tapping microorganisms' powerful and diverse capabilities to produce renewable energy, clean up the environment and manage atmospheric carbon. This research has been supported by the Genomics: GTL program in the Office of Science. Since initiating the Human Genome Project in 1986, DOE has played a major role in advancing modern biotechnology, and the department's recent research on microbes for energy production builds on those advances.

Today's announcement is part of a series of events highlighting the first anniversary of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which President Bush signed on August 8, 2005. A kickoff event was held in Washington, D.C., with Secretary Bodman and two Chairmen of Congressional Committees, Senator Pete Domenici and Congressman Joe Barton. Later today, Secretary Bodman will travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he will visit the Clipper Wind Manufacturing Facility and discuss the importance of wind and other forms of renewable energy to our nation's energy security. In addition to the production tax credits for renewable energy, including wind, in the Energy Policy Act, President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative significantly increases the government's investment in research and development to bring more affordable renewable energy to market. The Advanced Energy Initiative proposes a 13 percent increase in wind research and development in DOE, to a total of $44 million.


DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the nation and helps ensure U.S. world leadership across a broad range of scientific disciplines. The Office of Science supports a diverse portfolio of research at more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, manages 10 world-class national laboratories with unmatched capabilities for solving complex interdisciplinary scientific problems, and builds and operates the world's finest suite of scientific facilities and instruments used annually by more than 19,000 researchers to extend the frontiers of all areas of science.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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