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USDA and DOE Fund $17.5 Million in Biofuels Research

The US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) are allocating nearly $17.5 million to 17 biomass research, development and demonstration projects.

Secretaries Mike Johanns (USDA) and Samuel Bodman (DOE) announced the funding while addressing the General Session at Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance, a jointly hosted USDA-DOE conference.

The grants announced intended to develop technologies necessary to help make bio-based fuels cost-competitive with fossil fuels in the commercial market. Of the $17,492,466 announced today, $12,784,733 is funded by USDA (FY06) and $4,707,733 is funded by DOE (FY06-08). DOE funds go to three projects developing cellulosic biomass. USDA will provide funding to address such topics as feedstock production and product diversification.

Under the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a joint USDA-DOE effort established in 2000 and reauthorized in the comprehensive Energy Policy Act of 2005, award projects must demonstrate collaboration among experts in the field of biomass. The Initiative aims to enhance creative approaches in developing next generation advanced technologies; and promote research partnerships among colleges, universities, national laboratories, federal and state research agencies and the private sector.

USDA-DOE Biofuel Grant Recipients (by grant value)
Organization Grant Purpose
Virent Energy Systems, Inc.(WI) $2,000,000 Co-production of propylene glycol with biodiesel production.
Edenspace Systems Corp (VA) $1,926,900 Development of commercial corn hybrids engineered for enhanced, low-cost conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol.
Iowa Corn Promotion Board $1,762,157 Add value to commercial polymers through the incorporation of biomass-derived materials.
Ceres, Inc. (CA) (2 grants) $1,572,460
Double switchgrass yield by 2020 (cellulosic ethanol).
Enhance economic competitiveness of bio-based fuels through product diversification.
Center for Technology Transfer (WI) $1,521,800 Stabilizing value of biomass material before processing.
Drexel University (PA) $1,312,389 Improve bio-based polymers for moisture barrier applications.
Lucigen Corporation (WI) $1,259,000 Novel enzyme products for the conversion of defatted soybean meal to ethanol.
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (NY) $813,450 Willow biomass crop management.
Louisiana State University Agriculture Center $791,865 Natural fiber and commingled waste plastic project.
Southern Illinois University $676,722 Expansion of ethanol production in the Upper Mississippi River Basin.
The Pennsylvania State University $579,340 Lignin conversion to value-added materials.
North Carolina State University $435,997 Strategic positioning of biofuels in the context of agriculture, crude oil and auto manufacturing.
Argonne National Laboratory (IL) $400,000 Enhance animal feed values in corn dry mills with bio-based solvents.
Michigan State University $376,616 Develop environmental information on corn and soybean cropping systems and platform chemical production.
Western Governors’ Association (CO) $290,246 Strategic development of bioenergy in the western states.
Clarkson University (NY) $250,001 Waste biomass feedstocks for ethanol fuel production.


Rafael Seidl

The sums are trifling compared to the $7 billion tax break for the oil industry and the country's needs for basic research in this area. In particular, there is no money to resume intensive algae aquaculture.

Still, the Penn State project might be interesting. Lignin left over from cellulosic biofuel processes could be a feestock for carbon fiber production.

If the price is low enough, carmakers could afford to use it for rapid sheet molded body parts (random fiber orientation) and reverse the upward weight spiral. With part design strategies tailored to the material properties, which are very different from sheetmetal, carmakers could amortize the required tooling over far fewer vehicles. That would translate into more frequent and exciting model revisions.

In Europe, carmakers must also recycle a high and rising fraction of all vehicles they produce - up to a point, incineration in a power plant counts towards that goal.


Ya, I'll never understand why we're giving tax breaks to the oil industry, when they're reporting record profits.


Rafael Seidl,
While the possibility for cheap carbon fiber is interesting, the random fiber orientation may lead itself only towards use as exterior panel construction, ie hood. Depending on what allotypes of carbon it can be 15%+ lighter (graphite) or 50% (Nanotube carbon) vs aluminum. They are also each, <1/3 and <1/5 the density of steel, respectively. Some weight savings will occur, but multi-directional/unidirectional controlled matrix composites is needed for most structural elements.
_Besides burning the caron fiber components, burying them in designated carbon sequestering sites, and recycling the carbon are two other possibilities.

Rafael Seidl

Allen Z -

you're right to state that the initial applications will be non-load-bearing parts such as the bonnet, wings, roof, door covers and trunk lid. Indeed, one BMW model already sports a carbon fiber roof (though an expensively fashioned one, for opical appeal).

The random orientation of the fibers in a RSM part does not yield specific strengths as high as hand-molded composites do. However, as long as the mean fiber length is on the order of several inches, RSM product is still attractive even for load-bearing parts such as the floor pan - iff the part is specifically designed with the material and manufacturing process in mind. Automated recovery of the fibers typically yields shorter, lower quality fibers - hence the focus on incineration at end of life.

The lower density is not a major problem if the design constraint is the stiffness (e.g. in torsion) of the chassis, rather than strength. This is why Audi builds the A8 in aluminium. That metal is obviously quite expensive, though it can be recycled.

For parts that need to absorb impact forces, you do need to switch to anisotropic designs and more expensive manufacturing techniques. However, that allows you to tailor the plastic deformation behavior of the part, yielding safety that is technically superior to steel solutions (cost is another matter).


Well I've scanned the list and there is no mention of a revival of the algae projects, which is just crazy.

Ironically, it was the government funded US aquatic species program that originally pointed out they could make vast amounts of oil at $20 per barrel. Yet another promising project canned by the government the minute it showed a danger of harming the oil-economy....


I am really puzzled of your posts.
1. Particular USDA and DOE announcement is one of the numerous approved programs funding for couple of projects. All in all, US government spending for such researches is probably 50 times more then in EU.
2. No money for algae growing in particular announcement means that there were no credible applications for algae growing technology. Believe me, I have filed such applications by myself.
3. Lignin is a glue which holds cellulosic fiber together, and could not by itself be used for anything useful. In fact, paper producers and waste paper recyclers do not know how to get rid of excess lignin in their feedstock.
4. Recycling of old cars both in Europe and US have reached 98% rate by weight. I am puzzled to understand what is regulated to be combusted at power plants of remaining 20kg.
5. Get a grip, man.

Rafael Seidl

Andrey -

1. You're right in asserting that the US federal government outspends the EU commission on R&D, including fuels and fuel economy projects. However, national governments in Europe outspend US states in this regard. Besides, given the much higher fossil fuel consumption (both per head and per unit of GDP) in the US and Canada, the need for R&D breakthroughs is arguably even greater in North America than in Europe. I'd like to see more cutting-edge work over here, but you're going to need to document your claim of a 50x differential.

2. I actually did not see the following article until after I had posted my initial comment here. Clearly, there is substantial public R&D funding going into algal aquaculture after all. My apologies for flaming the DOE on this point.

3. Why then are researchers at ONRL and elsewhere claiming that lignin (a waste product) could be used as a feedstock for carbon fibers, potentially cutting their cost almost in half?

4. I'm not familiar with US recycling laws and rates. In Europe, we have not yet reached 95% by weight and about a tenth of "recycled" product, mostly thermoplasts, is actually incinerated in power plants. That amounts to about 130kg per vehicle, not 20.

5. Thank you for paying attention to my mental health.



I understand that casually offending America and Americans is part of European culture, but what DOE did wrong to you? Look what you are writing about DOE funding announcements:

1. 3 billion DOE roadmap to climate change:

“…pork-barrel nature of US policymaking and, the cowardice of its elected representatives.”

2. DOE roadmap to cellulosic ethanol:

“…DOE to look as if it was doing something without actually accomplishing much of anything…”

3. 250 million DOE investment in biofuel center:

“…total sum allocated to this program is equivalent to just two or three day’s worth of (increasingly futile) operations in Iraq.”

4. 17.5 million DOE fund to biofuel research:

“…the sums are trifling…”

May be it would be more appropriate to follow your own words:

“Every…country should fund its transition to renewable fuels on its own nickel…”


The DOE has been led by people appointed by an oil guy. They are for more oil, more coal and more nuclear. We can so much better.


we( Domestic Biofuels co based in usa holing 40,000 hactare land in for the production of biofuels
and are looking for partner or a funding partner to make thisproject a big success.

waiting for the reply on the following address
Dinesh kant
email [email protected]
cc [email protected]
cc [email protected]
mobile 00966551432075

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