Energy Secretary Chu Announces Biofuel Investment

The secretary of energy said that agriculture is one of the great resources in the United States.

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Energy Secretary Steven Chu this morning announced that the Department of Energy is investing nearly $800 million of stimulus funds in advanced biofuel research, development, and test projects.

Of that spending, about $480 million will be directed at demonstration-scale biorefineries to help test new ethanol technologies and attract private investment. "If you look at the great resources in the U.S., our agriculture resources are one of them," Chu said. "We have an incredible capacity to grow not only the food we need" but also "a considerable amount of the energy we use."

Chu noted that the new funding, totaling $786.5 million, will be spent partly on boosting existing biofuel research as well as on new initiatives, such as an algae biofuels consortium to help commercialize biofuels made from algae.

Citing a recent government study examining the potential to convert agriculture waste into energy on a large scale, Chu said, "100 billion gallons of ethanol...would go a long way to wiping out our need to import oil." He said that corn-based ethanol was "a good start" but added that "research will lead the way to give us much better options."

Chu's announcement was part of a broader move today by the administration to unite the efforts of the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop and support domestic biofuels.

Under a new order from President Obama, the three agencies will form a biofuels working group. It will be headed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "In the past, we've been stove-piping all of the discussion," Vilsack said. "What the president is suggesting is the need for integration within these departments."