As President Obama highlights the role of algal biofuels in the long-term energy strategy, critics and supporters duke it out over the nearer-term prospects, as R&D spending increases.
In Washington, the Obama Administration outlined a new $14 million round of R&D grants for algal biofuels, as the US President highlighted algal biofuels in a speech at the University of Miami which focused on energy policy.
In Miami, the President said: “We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance — algae. You’ve got a bunch of algae out here, right? If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in the United States. And that means greater energy security. That means lower costs. It means more jobs. It means a stronger economy.”
Through ARPA-E, the Energy Department will make $14 million available to support research and development into biofuels from algae, which it said has the potential to replace up to 17 percent of the United States’ imported oil for transportation. In addition, algae feedstocks offer additional benefits, such as an ability to be grown in ponds near industrial facilities where algae can feed off the carbon emissions from power plants or digest nitrogen and phosphorous from municipal waste water. The Department is currently supporting more than 30 algae-based biofuels projects, representing $85 million in total investments.
Through the new funding announcement, the Department will seek proposals from small businesses, universities, and national laboratories to modify existing facilities for long-term algae research and test new production processes that could lead to commercial biofuels made from algae. Specifically, the new projects will establish and operate research “test beds” for algal biofuels that can facilitate development, test new approaches to algae production, and discover innovative ways to minimize the water and nutrients needed to mass produce algae for commercial biofuels.
This research will support the Biomass Program’s goals to model pathways for significant (>1 billion gallons per year) volumes of cost-competitive algal biofuels by 2022.