Sheila McNulty US moving in right direction on biofuels

The US government on Friday said it had picked 19 biorefinery projects to receive up to $564m to accelerate the construction and operation of pilot, demonstration and commercial scale biorefinery facilities. The projects are spread across 15 states and are to lay the foundation for full commercial-scale develoment of a biomass industry in the US.

This is not aimed at taking corn out of tortillas or other food products. The projects are to focus on adsvanced biofuels, biopower and bioproducts, using biomass feedstocks at the pilot, demonstration and full commercial scale. This means feedstocks such as  non-corn kernal starch biomass sources and algae. Here is what Steven Chu, US department of energy secretary, had to say about the funding:

Advanced biofuels are critical to building a cleaner, more sustainable transporation system in the US. These projects will help establish a domestic industry that will create jobs here at home and open new markets across rural America.

Certainly they will help, now that the US has moved its sights beyond first-generation biofuels, which brought with it its own set of problems. Of the nearly $564m in Recovery Act funding annoounced, up to $483m will go to 14 pilot-scale and four demonstration-scale biorefinery projects across the country. The remaining $81m will focus on accelerating the construction of a biorefinery project previously awarded funding. These projects will be matchign with more than $700m in private and non-federal cost-share funds, for total project investments of almost $1.3bn.

After 18 months of quiet on the biofuels front, the news is welcome by industry. And certainly by the unemployed in middle America who will surely benefit. But the real prize will be if the US can make fuel from algae and other waste materials. With all the waste throughout not only the country, but the world, this is something worth striving for.

Related links:

Shell reins back expectations on use of biofuels (FT, 30/11/09)