EATTLE, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced two major biofuels research grants from the U.S. Department of Energy that will bring in more than $16.8 million to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Washington State University, the University of Washington, and several cutting-edge biofuels companies based in Washington state. One research effort will focus on developing the technologies needed to develop diesel and jet fuel from algae. The other initiative involves a public-private effort to find ways to use non-food biomass in our nation’s existing transportation infrastructure.
“Our goal is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, stimulate local industry and job-creation, and achieve a cleaner environment,” Cantwell said. “These grants will put Washington state on a track to all three goals. The grants will help researchers and cutting-edge businesses in Washington get ahead in the race for fossil fuel alternatives. Within just a few years, these initiatives should lead to new techniques for turning biomass into fuels that we can use in our existing refineries, pipelines and cars.”
PNNL and a Colorado-based national laboratory will share funding to develop cleaner-burning biofuels capable of replacing typical uses of petroleum in trucks, planes, and other transportation vehicles. Called the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC), the project is co-led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and PNNL, with work primarily done at PNNL’s Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) in Richland. NABC involves research to develop a sustainable, cost-effective production process for biofuels and a plan to measure environmental benefits. PNNL will receive approximately $7 million over three years for this effort, with significant additional funding going to Washington State University and companies including Catchlight Energy and Tesoro, which have significant presence in Washington state.
“The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a national leader in energy innovation and finding ways to reduce fossil fuel use,” Cantwell said. “This new funding opens the way for further break-throughs in advancing America’s clean energy economy.”
A second research grant will fund PNNL work in both Richland and Sequim, WA, on the commercialization of algae-based biofuels such as green aviation fuels, diesel and gasoline. The grant is being awarded to the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB), led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. PNNL will receive about $7.2 million over three years, with additional funding going to Washington State University, the University of Washington, and Washington-state companies like AXI, Genifuel, Inventure, and Targeted Growth, Inc.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu also announced $1.6 million in funding to be shared by nine states, Washington among them, for ethanol gas pumps. New “E85” pumps are to be installed at over 60 gas stations in these states – about a half dozen in Seattle – for fuel blends that include up to 85 percent ethanol for use in flexible fuel vehicles.
Senator Cantwell is a leading advocate of transitioning from imported fossil fuels to domestically produced biofuels. She was one of the primary authors of the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standards which require the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels, mostly from non-food feedstocks, by 2022. Cantwell also has championed Washington state’s biodiesel industry, and is fighting for her bipartisan legislation authored with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) to improve and extend the biodiesel production tax credit. To date, this tax credit has helped encourage biofuel production to increase from 25 million gallons in 2004 to 690 million gallons in 2008. Her bipartisan Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act, proposed in December with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), provides a simple approach to getting off of carbon and on to clean energy fuels. The CLEAR Act provides businesses and investors with a simple, predictable mechanism that will open the way to clean energy expansion while achieving America’s goals of reducing carbon emission.
For more information, see today’s DOE press release.