Energy Department, USDA Invest in Biofuel Innovations

August 1, 2012

Photo of man touching tall grassy plants.

The Energy Department and USDA are backing 13 projects designed for more efficient biofuels production and feedstock improvements.
Credit: Todd Johnson

The Energy Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on July 25 announced a $41 million investment in 13 projects, including five cost-shared projects, that will drive more efficient biofuels production and feedstock improvements. Through the joint Biomass Research and Development Initiative, 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 cost-shared projects include one in which the University of Hawaii will optimize the production of island grasses, and their harvest and preprocessing will be made compatible with the biochemical conversion to jet fuel and diesel. The five also include the Agricultural Research Service's National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, which will improve various oilseed crops for oil quality and yield using recombinant inbred lines to help production strategies. See the Energy Department press release and the Biomass Research and Development Initiative website for more information.

The Energy Department and USDA also announced $10 million to support 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 such as feedstock durability, tolerance of feedstocks to various environmental stresses, and the potential for feedstocks to be used in energy production. For example, Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, will explore the genetic architecture of sorghum biomass yield component traits identified using field-based analysis of the feedstock’s physical and genetic traits. See the Energy Department press release, the Biomass Research and Development Initiative website, and the list of genomics projects.