DOE Moving On BioFuel

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The DOE intends to develop biofuels that can act as drop in replacements for diesel and gasoline and believes that domestic sources -- including both cellulosic ethanol and algae-based fuels -- can match almost 100 percent of the U.S. demand. Biomass Magazine has reported that the agency has solicited $50 million for algal biofuel development through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The goal is to apply the monies to develop a consortium of research and development teams that will aggregate all the experts and apply their work to key targets. Currently, the DOE hopes to accelerate the development of hydrocarbon-based biofuels, targeting a pilot scale rollout at the end of five years. DOE hopes algae-based fuels could hope to be at the same stage within about ten years if funds are released to allow development of a consortia-based research program. Algae's potential productivity far outpaces that of land-based crop productivity (corn), but hurdles remain and the DOE has set deadlines.

For algae to become a fuel source, algal cultivation and biology must be analyzed both economically and technologically. Proposals that detail plans for moving from research to development are sitting with the DOE, which plans to announce its decisions by year-end.