Friday, November 27, 2009

Biofuels given boost in United States

Many people see biofuels as one of the best alternatives to fossil fuels, as United States is trying to become greener by developing its renewable energy sector. Biofuels, together with wind energy and solar energy, are becoming leaders in U.S. renewable energy sector, and U.S. government is also doing their part to promote these renewable energy sources. One of the best examples of what U.S. government is doing to give boost to renewables is a $24m grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will be given to companies that develop technologies to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value bio-based products using biomass as feedstock.

The conditions that these companies have to met are as follows: the awardees must contribute a minimum of 20% of matching funds for R&D projects and 50% of matching funds for demonstration projects. For bio-based products and biofuels development, there are currently chosen companies as GE Global Research, Gevo, Itaconix, Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation, and Velocys.

Gevo, one of the most prominent biofuel companies, was awarded $1.8m, their chairman said that this grant will help fund ongoing development of its yeast strain to produce biobutanol from cellulosic biomass. The company started up its biobutanol demonstration plants the first in the world just year ago. The facility was designed from adapting an existing demonstration scale ethanol plant to produce biobutanol.

Itaconix, another of these awarded companies aims to produce green polymers from itaconic acid fermented with sugars extracted from hardwood biomass. Their product polyitaconic acid is a water soluble polymer, and according to their latest reports has a 2 million ton/year market potential as a replacement for petrochemical dispersants, detergents, and super-absorbents.

Other companies that were awarded include names like include Exelus, which wants to develop a Biomass-to-Gasoline (BTG) technology; and universities such as University of Tennessee that works on switchgrass, etc.

One company that also has to be mentioned here is energy crop company Ceres also won a grant of $5m from the DOE to develop high-yielding, low-input energy grasses. The company aims to expand an advanced trait development project to increase biomass yields of several energy grasses by nearly 40%, and at the same time to decrease the use of inputs such as nitrogen fertilizers. This "amazing grass" as it was called by some energy experts could displace 1.3 billion barrels of oil and 58 million tons of coal over a ten year period, according to latest reports from Ceres.

In any case it is nice to see that federal government is investing money in development of renewable technologies. Without the adequate investment the renewable energy sector will be too weak to compete with fossil fuels, and this would significantly decrease the Obama's efforts to make U.S. greener in years to come.

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