$85M earmarked for 'advanced' biofuels

The Energy Department will provide up to $85 million to accelerate commercial production of "advanced" biofuels that can be derived from algae and other feedstocks.

The money, which is aimed at spurring collaboration between public- and private-sector researchers, comes as part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Obama signed in February.

DOE plans to select two or three partnerships and fund them over a three-year period.

The agency's first objective is to develop algae-based biofuels that are cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels.

DOE's second objective is to enable cost-effective conversion of bulkier biomass, such as cornstalks and wood chips, into fuels other than cellulosic ethanol. Such fuels, known in the industry as "green" gasoline and diesel, could utilize existing fueling infrastructure.

On Tuesday, Exxon Mobil Corp. announced a partnership with the biotech company Synthetic Genomics Inc. to study algae-growing methods and oil extraction techniques (Greenwire, July 16). Fellow oil majors Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Chevron Corp. and BP PLC are engaged in similar algal biofuels R&D ventures.

Biofuel researchers consider algae as a promising feedstock because it can be produced on non-arable land. The slimy green plants also grow by consuming carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas that contributes to global warming.

As of July 10, all federal agencies had made available about $183.4 billion and paid out $64.4 billion of the stimulus, according to the Obama administration's Web site. DOE had made available $7.93 billion and paid out $260.43 million.

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