Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | August 12, 2008

Lawyer Sanders says Kentucky missed out on $10 million in U.S. DOE grants to study biofuels made from non-food source crops.

In July 2008, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced plans to award 10 grants totaling more than $10 million to accelerate fundamental research in the development of cellulosic biofuels.  From the production side, cellulosic biofuels offer one of the best near- to mid-term alternatives that our country has to reduce reliance and imported oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions, while continuing to meet the nation’s transportation energy needs.

Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants.  It is a type of biofuel produced from lignocellulose, a structural material that comprises much of the mass of plants. Lignocellulose is composed mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.   

Corn stover, switchgrass, miscanthus and woodchips are some of the more popular cellulosic materials for ethanol production.

Cellulosic ethanol is chemically identical to ethanol from other sources, such as corn starch or sugar, but has the advantage that the lignocellulose raw material is highly abundant and diverse. (The word “cellulosic” simply refers to the source material.) However, it differs in that it requires a greater amount of processing to make the sugar monomers available to the microorganisms that are typically used to produce ethanol by fermentation.

The grants will be awarded under a joint DOE-USDA program begun in 2006 which aims to accelerate fundamental research in biomass genomics to further the use of cellulosic plant material for bioenergy and biofuels.  DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research will provide $8.8 million while USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service will provide $2 million to the following institutions over a three year period:

  • Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (Ithaca, NY), $882,000
  • Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO), $1,500,000
  • University of Georgia (Athens, GA), $1,295,000
  • University of Georgia(Athens, GA), $1,200,000
  • University of Massachusetts (Amherst, MA), $1,200,000
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), $540,000
  • Pennsylvania State University (State College, PA), $587,191
  • Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), $1,200,000
  • Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR), $1,200,000
  • Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR), $1,200,000

It is maddening to see Kentucky miss out on U.S. DOE grants to study biofuels, alternative energy, and renewable energy when it has two senior Republican Senators, including U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.  McConnell was elected Republican leader in the 110th Congress by his Republican colleagues and is a close ally and personal friend of President George Bush.  With gasoline bordering on $4 per gallon, biofuels is important to America’s national security and its economy.  It is incredibly important in Campton, Paducah, and Fort Thomas.  Where is our leadership in Washington?

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