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Energy Department Announces National Bioenergy Center

For more information contact:
Gary Schmitz, 303-275-4050
email: Gary Schmitz

Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 1, 2000 - Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson today announced the formation of a U.S. Department of Energy National Bioenergy Center to help the U.S. meet its energy needs, manage its environmental challenges and strengthen economic opportunities in rural America.

"The biomass initiative gives new meaning to the words 'power plant.' Focusing our efforts to help industry through the National Bioenergy Center will create new economic opportunities for farmers, enhance U.S. energy security and help manage the impact of energy on the environment," said Secretary Richardson. "Together we will work to accelerate development of a new industry that can provide a significant source of home-grown energy."

The National Bioenergy Center, funded from existing Energy Department dollars will be based in the department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. The virtual center will be the focal point for technology development and information about bioenergy in the United States, giving industry a one-stop shopping place for access to world class research and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities at several federal agencies.

In remarks at the Kansas City Board of Trade in Kansas City, Mo., Secretary Richardson said the National Bioenergy Center will offer the U.S. bioenergy industry partnership opportunities in developing clean energy technologies that will benefit consumers and farmers.

Biomass—typically defined as all the earth's plant matter and its byproducts—is considered to be one of the most technologically promising sources of renewable energy in the United States. Biomass can be converted into liquid fuels to replace or enhance gasoline, into electricity, or into chemical byproducts that are currently made from petroleum. The Energy Department estimates that there is enough biomass in this country to supply a significant portion of U.S. energy needs. Biomass could generate as much as $20 billion a year in new income for American farmers and rural communities, while reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to 100 million tons a year—the equivalent of taking 70 million cars off the road.

The National Bioenergy Center will partner with U.S. industry to achieve cost and performance goals to make bioenergy competitive globally; provide strategic guidance, direction and coordination to assure the best use of national laboratory and university research capabilities; facilitate strategic partnerships to overcome market and institutional barriers; perform world class research; and be the focal point of bioenergy analysis, information, education and outreach.

The center is the next step in the Department of Energy's efforts to implement President Clinton's federal initiative to triple the nation's use of bioenergy and bioproducts by 2010. In the past year, the Energy Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the Biobased Products and Bioenergy Initiative have focused industry and government research and development on improving harvesting, handling and storage alternatives for agricultural residues, lowering the cost of converting plant material into ethanol and fermentable sugars, researching new products that can be produced from the low cost sugars, co-locating biomass ethanol facilities with existing corn ethanol facilities, demonstrating biodiesel blends in government fleets and at National Parks, and supporting coal and biomass co-firing demonstrations.

The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., and Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tenn. will lead the Bioenergy Center. The center will link DOE-funded biomass renewable energy research programs with the resources and capabilities of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and several other federal agencies, DOE laboratories and universities, and the private sector. NREL's $33 million biomass research program focuses on conversion of biomass feedstocks into electric power, transportation fuels and chemical products. ORNL's $6 million research program focuses on crop research with industry and the USDA.

More information is available online.

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