The U.S. Department of Energy has got its fingers in a lot of alternative-energy pies, from hydrogen vehicles to plug-ins. Today, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the DOE has announced that it will reach a little deeper into 13 biofuel and feedstock improvement projects with a $41 million investment. We hope there are gloves involved in the "manure to ethanol" project.

The details of the projects can be found in the press release below, but there are five that will "diversify the nation's energy portfolio and replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles" and eight that use "biomass genomics to improve promising biofuel feedstocks and drive more efficient, cost-effective energy production."

The five vehicle-specific projects include: $4.25 million for the Quad County Corn Cooperative in Iowa to improve a corn starch ethanol plant; $7 million for the Agricultural Research Service's National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Illinois to create better "rapeseed/canola, mustard and camelina oilseed crops" to make diesel and jet fuel; $6.85 million for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in Ohio for better rubber plants so they make rubber as well as byproducts to maybe be used "in biopower and for conversion to jet fuel precursors;" $7 million for the University of Wisconsin to turn dairy manure into ethanol and other products; and $6 million to the University of Hawaii to grow local grasses so they can more easily be used to make jet fuel and diesel.

That's all pretty heady stuff, but a new video called Biofuels 101 shows that the Energy Department can also make this stuff easy to understand. Watch it below.

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Agriculture and Energy Departments Announce New Investments to Drive Innovations in Biofuels and Biobased Products

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 – As part of the Obama Administration's all-of-the-above strategy to enhance U.S. energy security, reduce America's reliance on imported oil and leverage our domestic energy supply, while also supporting rural economies, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy today announced a $41 million investment in 13 projects that will drive more efficient biofuels production and feedstock improvements.

"If we want to develop affordable alternatives for oil and gasoline that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we need investments like these projects to spur innovation in bioenergy," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "By producing energy more efficiently and sustainably, we can create rural jobs, boost rural economies and help U.S. farmers, ranchers and foresters prosper."

"As part of President Obama's all-of-the-above strategy to deploy every available source of American energy, we continue to strive for more efficient, cost-competitive technologies to produce U.S. energy," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "The investments announced today are helping to accelerate innovation across America's growing biofuels industry, which will help to reduce our dependence on imported oil and support job creation across rural America."

New Biomass Research and Development Initiative Investments

Through the joint Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), USDA and the Energy Department are working to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products. The five projects announced today will help to diversify the nation's energy portfolio and replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles.

The cost-shared projects include:
  • Quad County Corn Cooperative ($4.25 million – Galva, Iowa). This project will retrofit an existing corn starch ethanol plant to add value to its byproducts, which will be marketed to the non-ruminant feed markets and to the biodiesel industry. This project enables creation of diverse product streams from this facility, opening new markets for the cooperative and contributing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's goals for cellulosic ethanol production and use.
  • Agricultural Research Service's National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research ($7 million - Peoria, Illinois). This project will optimize rapeseed/canola, mustard and camelina oilseed crops for oil quality and yield using recombinant inbred lines. Remote sensing and crop modeling will enhance production strategies to incorporate these crops into existing agricultural systems across four ecoregions in the Western United States. The oils will be hydrotreated to produce diesel and jet fuel.
  • Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. ($6.85 million - Findlay, Ohio). Guayule is a hardwood perennial natural rubber-producing shrub grown in the semi-arid southwestern United States. This project will optimize production and quality of guayule rubber using genomic sequencing and development of molecular markers. The extracted rubber will be used in tire formulations, and the remaining plant residue will be evaluated for use in biopower and for conversion to jet fuel precursors.
  • University of Wisconsin ($7 million - Madison, Wisconsin).This project will utilize dairy manure as a source of fiber and fertilizer. Fiber will be converted to ethanol, manure used for fertilizer, and oil from the crops will be converted to biodiesel used in farm equipment. The project goal is to develop closed-loop systems with new product streams that benefit the environment.
  • University of Hawaii ($6 million - Manoa, Hawaii). This project will optimize the production of grasses in Hawaii, including napier grass, energycane, sugarcane and sweet sorghum. Harvest and preprocessing will be optimized to be compatible with the biochemical conversion to jet fuel and diesel.
Additional information on the Biomass Development and Research Initiative is available HERE.

Leveraging Genomics for More Efficient, Cost-Effective Bioenergy

Today, the Energy Department and USDA are also announcing $10 million for eight research projects aimed at applying biomass genomics to improve promising biofuel feedstocks and drive more efficient, cost-effective energy production. These projects will use genetic mapping to advance sustainable biofuels production by analyzing and seeking to maximize genetic traits like feedstock durability, how tolerant feedstocks are to various environmental stresses, and the potential for feedstocks to be used in energy production.

A full list of the projects selected today is available HERE. The projects selected today include:
  • Michigan Technological University ($1.1 million – Houghton, Michigan). This project will analyze genetic traits that affect wood biomass yield and quality in the Populus species, including poplar trees.
  • Iowa State University ($1.4 million - Ames, Iowa). Research will explore the genetic architecture of sorghum biomass yield component traits identified using field-based analysis of the feedstock's physical and genetic traits.
Since 2006, the Plant Feedstocks Genomics for Bioenergy research program has invested nearly $70 million helping to identify key genes affecting biomass yield and quality in feedstocks and to accelerate breeding efforts to improve bioenergy-relevant traits.

More information is available HERE.

The Energy Department also released today a new video, Biofuels 101, highlighting how technological advances are increasing biofuel efficiency and reducing production costs.


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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      Bill Clinton, Al Gore & Senator Obama supported the California 2006 Prop. 87, a GMO corn ethanol welfare program. Bill, Al, have changed opinion on the ethanol mandate, I wonder if California will make this the time for CHANGE? I support a waiver of the ethanol mandate, voluntary use of ethanol in my gas. Federal ethanol policy increases Government motors oil use and Big oil profit. It is reported that today California is using Brazil sugar cane ethanol at $0.16 per gal increase over using GMO corn fuel ethanol. In this game the cars and trucks get to pay and Big oil profits are the result that may be ready for change. We do NOT support AB 523 or SB 1396 unless the ethanol mandate is changed to voluntary ethanol in our gas. Folks that pay more at the pump for less from Cars, trucks, food, water & air need better, it is time. The car tax of AB 118 Nunez is just a simple Big oil welfare program, AAA questioned the policy and some folks still agree. AB 523 & SB 1326 are just a short put (waiver) from better results. GOOGLE: Prop 87 (510) 537-1796
      Allch Chcar
      • 8 Months Ago
      While that's nice, $41 million over 13 projects is a pittance compared to how much it's going to cost to effectively develop biofuels. We need to be spending billions in this area. And not all "republicans oppose government funded research." I would sooner cut defense research spending than cut alternative energy research and I'm a staunch republican. Too many of our elect are playing the short game.
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Allch Chcar
        Allch Chcar You're a democrat, believe it or not. You're only calling yourself a republican because of family tradition. You're really a democrat...or why would you vote for a party that is pathetically opposed to your own beliefs?
      • 8 Months Ago
      $41 million spread across 13 projects? That is a tiny amount of money. The stimulus really is over.
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a racket. Buying votes during election year masqueraded as alternative fuel research grants. Anyway you name it, it's called Pork.
        Mark Schaffer
        • 8 Months Ago
        Rob, The thing calling itself "Scambuster" just doesn't want anything EFFECTIVE done that might increase the odds of President Obama being re-elected, that's all.
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Mark Schaffer
          @ Mark Schaffer On that, we can agree !
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 8 Months Ago
        I haven't heard Obama talking about an investment in biofuels yet, have you? So at the moment, let's be rational. No votes have been bought yet. Either ways, all presidents over time have invested in this sort of thing.
          • 8 Months Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          August 16, 2011 “Biofuels are an important part of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs here at home,” said President Obama. “But supporting biofuels cannot be the role of government alone. That’s why we’re partnering with the private sector to speed development of next-generation biofuels that will help us continue to take steps towards energy independence and strengthen communities across our country.” "Last week on the campaign trail at Ohio State University, President Barack Obama told a crowd of 2,600 students that drilling for more oil was not the solution to the energy problems of the United States, saying that wind, solar power and synthetic fuels were what were needed for the future. “We’ve added enough oil and gas pipeline to circle the entire earth and then some,” Obama said of oil exploration. “The problem is not that we’re not drilling or that we’re not producing more oil.” Throughout his tour of Ohio and other key battleground states vital for re-election in November, the president touched on similar themes and touted his biofuels initiatives."
        Rob J
        • 8 Months Ago
        So the president should just do nothing during election season?
      Rob J
      • 8 Months Ago
      I work at the University of British Columbia on a project similar to the one in the press release at the University of Michigan and I can say with certainty that not only is this money be used for reducing our oil dependence, it is also stimulating a culture of continues learning (something Republicans seem to despise) and provides jobs to everybody from PhD's to undergraduates to maintenance workers who tend trees for the project. 2nd generation ethanol production is becoming a big industry - our lab focuses on fast growing (often called weeds) poplar trees which can be planted in vast quantities in the southern plains of Canada in areas not suited to crop production and turned into ethanol though enzyme breakdown and fermentation. Very neat stuff.
      • 8 Months Ago
      The US government must urgent do something about reducing it's massive debt. At the same time the US must maintain it's very complex economic and trade relationships globally. Energy has become a key factor to all economies. Whether bio-fuels are cost efficient or not, is very difficult to asses at this time. The economics of bio-fuels depends on the development of an economically reliable feedstock. In countries like Brazil with a unique combination of dynamics, bio-fuels can play an important role. For the USA, corn and other crops have proved disappointing. Diverting this investment to other, more viable technologies, may prove more productive. The largest companies in the world are investing in Bio-fuel research, perhaps it's time for the taxpayer to wonder if his money could be better spent. None of these questions can be answered without adequate R&D, funded by a combination of private and public investment. Insignificant investments of $41 million are affordable to seek answers, even if negative. However, governments, of all persuasions, must limit large scale public investment, to technologies and project's with a real possibility of large scale application, not small scale 'feel good' show projects. The US taxpayer no longer can afford "billions (of borrowed money) to spend'" , funding projects that will never be viable without continual taxpayer subsidies, simply to comply with ideological dogmas.
      • 8 Months Ago
      America produces about 9000 tons of feces on a daily would be great to convert that into fuel.
        • 8 Months Ago
        @ Nick Being done ! Professor Kartik Chandran, .is working on a process to produce biodiesel and methane from fecal sludge at Columbia University. The research is being funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a waste-to-energy technology. No **** !
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is stupid. Don't make it from crops...make it from human waste or other organic waste products...
        • 8 Months Ago
        "$7 million for the University of Wisconsin to turn dairy manure into ethanol and other products; and $6 million to the University of Hawaii to grow local grasses so they can more easily be used to make jet fuel and diesel."
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