Your federal government at work

Those keeping score of the pro vs. against biofuel camps can add another point for the advocates since the federal government has agreed to divert more funds towards the expansion of biofuels. Specifically, the US Department of Energy (DOE) will award more than $10 million to five products designed to speed up technology related to converting biomass to fuel.

The largest grant, at $2.5 million, will go to California-based Novozymes, which (for you chemistry buffs out there) finds enzymes that can "deconstruct" biomass into fuel-worthy material. Washington State-based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Texas-based Texas AgriLife Research will each get as much as $2.4 million for their biofuels projects. California-based Lygos and Maryland-based J. Craig Venter Institute will also get DOE funds. Read the DOE's press release below.

Earlier this week, the US Senate agreed on a temporary budget pact to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" that will extend many of the biofuel initiatives from 2008's Farm Bill to the end of the year. Biofuel advocates praised the agreement as a job-saver, while the Union of Concerned Scientists were among those to say the incentives are being misappropriated away from what it called "smart, sustainable farming practices."
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Energy Department Awards $10 Million to Develop Advanced Biofuels and Bio-based Products
January 03, 2013
As part of the Obama Administration's all-of-the-above strategy to develop every available source of American energy, the U.S. Department of Energy today announced more than $10 million to five projects in California, Washington, Maryland, and Texas that will develop new technologies to convert biomass into advanced biofuels and bioproducts like plastics and chemical intermediates.

These projects use innovative synthetic biological and chemical techniques to convert biomass into processable sugars that can be transformed into bioproducts and drop-in biofuels for cars, trucks, and planes. The awards announced today will support projects led by collaborative teams, including universities, national laboratories and private industry.

The five projects support the Energy Department's broader biomass portfolio which focuses on research, development and demonstration efforts to achieve affordable, scalable and sustainable advanced biofuels. Two of these projects will develop cost-effective ways to produce intermediates from the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass, while three projects will propose new conversion techniques to transform biomass intermediates into advanced biofuels and bioproducts.

The following projects were selected for negotiation of award today:

J. Craig Venter Institute (up to $1.2 million; Rockville, Maryland): This project will develop new technologies to produce enzymes that more efficiently deconstruct biomass to make biofuel. This work will be performed in collaboration with La Jolla, California-based Synthetic Genomics, Inc.

Novozymes (up to $2.5 million; Davis, California): Through collaborative work with a team of partners, Novozymes will expand their existing capabilities to find new sources of enzymes which can be targeted to deliver more cost-effective solutions for deconstructing biomass into processable components.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (up to $2.4 million; Richland, Washington): The goal of this project is to increase the production of fuel molecules in fungi growing on lignocellulosic hydrolysate. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will partner with universities and industry, including the University of Kansas, to complete the project.

Texas AgriLife Research (up to $2.4 million; College Station, Texas): This project will employ state-of-the-art technology to develop a novel and integrated platform for converting lignin, a component of all lignocellulosic material, into biofuel precursors. The team includes scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia, Washington State University, and Texas A&M University.

Lygos (up to $1.8 million; Berkeley, California): The overall goal of this project is to develop efficient, inexpensive methods and tools to convert biomass into common and specialty chemicals. This work will be performed in collaboration with San Francisco-based TeselaGen Biotech.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Learn more about EERE's work with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in biomass feedstocks and conversion technologies.