The White House has 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 (BRDI) -- a joint program through the USDA and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) -- 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.
The announcement to invest in advanced biofuels supports President Obama's blueprint for an economy fueled by homegrown, alternative energy sources designed and produced by American workers. These investments will help cut America's oil imports, develop clean alternative energy technologies, and protect American families and businesses from the ups and downs of the global oil market.
"USDA's partnership with the Department of Energy aims to improve our country's energy security and provide sustainable jobs in communities across the country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This funding represents the kind of innovation we need to build American-made, homegrown biofuels and biobased products that will help to break our dependence on foreign oil and move our nation toward a clean energy economy."
"President Obama called for an all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy and advances technologies that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save money for American consumers," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "Investing in next-generation biofuels helps boost the competitiveness of the U.S. biofuels industry, supports economic development in rural communities, and creates skilled jobs for American workers."
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:
- Feedstock Development.
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.
- Biofuels and Biobased Products Development.
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.
- Biofuels Development Analysis.
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. A description of the solicitation, eligibility requirements, and application instructions is available here  and here  under Reference Number DE-FOA-0000657. 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 the 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, Obama announced that the 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, President 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 (NIFA) and DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available here .
The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Learn more about EERE's work with industry, academia and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in biomass feedstocks and conversion technologies.