Obama administration talks new funding for biomass research

Columbus, Ohio, March 26, 2012 — The White House announced up to $35 million over three years to support research and development in advanced biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products.

The projects funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative — a joint program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Energy Department — will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products that can help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles and diversify our energy portfolio.

For fiscal year 2012, applicants seeking BRDI funding must propose projects that integrate science and engineering research in the following three technical areas that are critical to the broader success of alternative biofuels production:

Funding will support research, development and demonstration activities for improving biomass feedstocks and their supply, including the harvest, transport, preprocessing and storage necessary to produce biofuels and biobased products.

Research, development and demonstration activities will support cost-effective technologies to increase the use of cellulosic biomass in the production of biofuels and biobased products. Funding will also support the development of a wide range of technologies to produce various biobased products, including animal feeds and chemicals that can potentially increase the economic viability of large-scale fuel production in a biorefinery.

Projects will develop analytical tools to better evaluate the effects of expanded biofuel production on the environment and to assess the potential of using federal land resources to sustainably increase feedstock production for biofuels and biobased products.

Integrating multiple technical areas in each project will encourage collaborative problem-solving approaches, enable grantees to identify and address knowledge gaps, and facilitate the formation of research consortia.

Subject to annual appropriations, USDA and DOE plan to contribute up to $35 million over three years for this year’s BRDI solicitation. This funding is expected to support five to seven projects over three to four years. Applications are due April 23, 2012, and must be submitted electronically. It is anticipated that applicants who submit completed applications will be notified of the results by June 15, 2012.

In addition to the funding announced today by USDA and DOE, the Obama administration is taking a number of aggressive steps to support the growth of robust renewable energy and biobased markets in the U.S.

For example, in August 2011, the president announced that USDA, DOE and the Navy are investing up to $510 million during the next three years in partnership with the private sector to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. The initiative supports the president’s Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future, the Administration’s framework for reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

On Feb. 21, Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the federal government to take decisive steps to dramatically increase the purchase of biobased products over the next two years. Biobased products include items like paints, soaps and detergents and are developed from farm-grown plants, rather than chemicals or petroleum bases.

The biobased products sector marries the two most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing. To support these efforts, USDA created the BioPreferred program to promote the increased purchase and use of biobased products. Last year, USDA released the USDA Certified Biobased Product label to assure consumers that a product or package contains a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients.

Grants, awards and national program leadership for the BRDI program will be administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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