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Biorefinery Grant Announcement

February 28, 2007 - 10:28am

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Prepared Remarks for Energy Secretary Bodman

Thank you all for coming.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Bush set forth an aggressive plan to reduce America's consumption of gasoline over the next ten years.  The President's "20 in 10" initiative would increase the amount of renewable and alternative fuels used in the transportation sector to 35 billion gallons a year by 2017.  The announcement I am about to make will be an important step in helping us to reach that goal.

Corn-based ethanol is already playing a key part in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and mitigating the growth of greenhouse gasses but we cannot increase our use of corn grain indefinitely.  So we are very excited about the prospects for cellulosic ethanol -- which can be made from a variety of non-food or energy crops like switchgrass, as well as agricultural waste products such as corn stover, cereal straws, saw dust and wood chips.  Moreover, while it requires a more complex refining process, cellulosic ethanol contains more net energy and results in lower greenhouse emissions than traditional corn-based ethanol.

Today we are identifying six biorefinery projects across the country that we hope will support the development of cost-effective cellulosic ethanol as an alternative transportation fuel.  Biorefineries are similar in concept to today's oil refineries; except that instead of using fossil fuels, they make use of clean, renewable biomass to produce fuel and chemical feedstocks.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed the Department of Energy to solicit proposals for commercial demonstration of advanced biorefineries that use cellulosic feedstocks to produce ethanol and co-produce bioproducts and electricity.  The solicitation closed on August 10, 2006.  The six projects we are unveiling today have been selected for negotiation of awards totaling up to $385 million over the next four years.  With the private sector sharing at least 60 percent of the respective project costs, DOE's funding will leverage over $1.2 billion in total investment in these biorefineries.

The companies that have been selected for negotiations are:

  • Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, for a facility in Colwich, Kansas.
  • ALICO Inc., for a facility in LaBelle, Florida;
  • BlueFire Ethanol, for a facility located in Corona, California;
  • Broin & Associates, for their "project liberty" facility in Emmetsburg, Iowa;
  • Iogen Biorefinery Partners, for a facility in Idaho Falls, Idaho; and
  • Range Fuels, for a facility in Soperton, Georgia. 

Let me first bring to your attention the geographical variety of those sites.   One of the things that makes cellulosic ethanol so promising is that it can draw on a variety of regional feedstocks, so that fuel can be made in nearly every part of the country.

In addition to geographic variety, the consortiums sponsoring these projects also represent a great diversity of expertise and focus -- from conventional ethanol production, to the chemical industry, to investment banking and venture capital.  Some of the leading U.S. corporations are important participants in these six projects.

There are smaller start-up operations involved, as well as major energy, chemical, and manufacturing companies.  And there is significant international participation -- which is especially noteworthy, since international cooperation is going to play a larger and larger role in meeting our future energy challenges.  We even have the Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory involved in one collaboration.

But running through all this diversity is the unifying quality of genuine excellence.  We selected these projects and these partnerships for further negotiations because we really believe that they are the cream of the crop.

You will hear from the representatives of each project in just a moment.  But before I turn over the podium, let me make one last point.  The biorefineries we are discussing today are only one part of a comprehensive plan to support scientific breakthroughs on biofuels.  These projects are intended to demonstrate proven technology at the commercial scale; which we hope will then be replicated further.

But we are also leveraging $2 billion in loan guarantees to help bring the most promising alternative energy technologies out of the R&D phase and into commercialization.  And we are investing $375 million in three new bioenergy research centers that we expect will lead to significant scientific progress in developing cost-effective biofuels.  All these efforts are part of an overarching clean energy plan that seeks to expand our use of home-grown alternative fuels, protect the environment, and enhance the nation's energy security.

Now I will ask our guests to tell you a bit more about each of the individual projects.  We've asked the company representatives to come forward in alphabetical order, so first up will be Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas.

Location: Washington, DC

Media contact(s): Craig Stevens, 202-586-4940

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