Biofuels get a boost from DOE, USDA

Source: Tiffany Stecker • E&E  • Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The growth of biofuels remains a priority of the Obama administration, whose budget yesterday unveiled close to $600 million dedicated to boost the development and regulation of the fossil fuel alternative.

The biggest boost came from the Energy Department, whose proposed fiscal 2013 budget allots $6.3 billion to renewable energy. The amount set aside for biomass and biorefinery research and development through the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program is $270 million — a 35.5 percent increase over the amount enacted for fiscal 2012.

The department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program requests $75 million for bioenergy research centers — unchanged from the past two years. ARPA-E also included an $69.2 million request for the Joint Genome Institute, which studies plant biotechnology for energy applications. This is a slight increase over the enacted fiscal 2012 budget.

The Agriculture Department proposed $200 million of its $32 billion budget to invest in advanced biofuels development, and $6.1 billion in loans to rural electric cooperatives and utilities for clean-energy generation.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity here in terms of the bio-based economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Novozymes, a Danish enzyme company that has invested heavily in cellulosic biofuel research, welcomed the support from the federal government.

“Renewable energy is real. Across America, it is creating jobs, supporting farmers and rural communities and freeing us from foreign oil — improving our nation’s security. If we want to energize America’s economy, the investments in President Obama’s budget can do it,” Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the President and ensuring we have policies in place, like the Renewable Fuels Standard and a strong Farm Bill, to meet his goal.”

U.S. EPA’s proposed budget for enforcement of the renewable fuels standard in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 remained unchanged at $18.6 million. The agency has proposed $10 million for the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory, whose work includes the evaluation of new biofuels technologies. The agency has also proposed $1.8 million for biofuels in its research budget, out of a total $575.6 million.

While it did not set a financial budget to fund the development of biofuel resources, the Forest Service has set a goal of increasing its biomass resources more than threefold from 2011 levels for energy production — from 477,921 tons to 1.56 million tons.