This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 08, 2008

DOE Awards $83.3 Million to Develop a Sustainable Biofuels Industry

DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released on October 7 the National Biofuels Action Plan (NBAP), an interagency plan that details the collaborative efforts of federal agencies to accelerate the development of a sustainable fuels industry. The NBAP outlines interagency actions, federally supported research and development efforts, and future goals and required steps in seven areas: sustainability; feedstock production; feedstock logistics; conversion science and technology; distribution infrastructure; blending; and environment, health, and safety. The NBAP was developed by the Biomass Research and Development Board, which is co-chaired by both USDA and DOE officials in order to coordinate the activities of federal agencies involved in biomass research and development. See the DOE press release and fact sheet on the NBAP, the NBAP report (PDF 4.9 MB), and the USDA Energy Matrix Web site. Download Adobe Reader.

For its part, DOE will focus on three major goals: research to enable increased use of biofuels; deployment of cellulosic biorefineries; and research and development (R&D) of biofuels. DOE's research to enable the increased the use of biofuels will be focused mostly on assessing the potential impacts of E15 and E20—blends of gasoline with 15% and 20% ethanol, respectively—on conventional vehicles and other gasoline engines. To support that effort, DOE released on October 7 a preliminary report that found no significant impact on emissions or performance when using the ethanol blends. DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) studied the affects of E15 and E20 on 13 vehicles and 28 small non-road engines, including lawn equipment and generators. See the DOE fact sheet on the report and the full report (PDF 1.5 MB).

To meet its deployment and R&D goals, DOE will invest an additional $76.3 million in POET, LLC, which is producing a commercial-scale cellulosic biorefinery, plus another $7 million in five advanced biofuels projects, subject to annual appropriations. POET received $3.7 million under the first phase of a cooperative agreement with DOE that covered initial design, permitting, and preparation of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation. This second phase of funding will support final design, construction, and commissioning of the project to develop an economically viable cellulose-to-ethanol biorefinery. Meanwhile, the five advanced biofuels projects will develop cost-effective, environmentally friendly ways to convert non-food feedstocks into stabilized pyrolysis oils. Pyrolysis involves the rapid heating of biomass in the absence of oxygen. See the DOE press release.