Methane is both a powerful energy source and a potent greenhouse gas. When it’s extracted from the earth as natural gas and burned for heating and electricity, it emits carbon dioxide (CO2) but burns more cleanly than some other energy sources such as coal. However, when methane escapes into the atmosphere, it traps 25 times more heat radiation than CO2. That’s why some people are concerned with the environmental consequences of methane leaks during the process of fracking.
On a bright, crisp October morning in Iowa, I had the privilege to speak at the grand opening of DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol biorefinery—the fourth biorefinery of its kind in the United States and the largest in the world. This impressive plant is equipped to produce 30 million gallons of ethanol each year from the leftover stalks and leaves of the corn plant, called corn stover.
This Halloween season, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is highlighting how waste can be “brought back to life” and turned into something useful. On average, Americans generate over 200 million tons of waste per year, or nearly 4.38 pounds per person per day. Significant opportunity exists to convert this and other waste sources into liquid transportation fuels.
At the Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, we’re actively working to develop the advanced biofuels industry in a way that leads to positive impacts and that demonstrates responsible stewardship of the environment. Biofuel production is closely tied to the environment—for example, energy crops can affect soil and water resources as well as wildlife populations, and water and energy are required to convert energy crops to fuel at a biorefinery.
An international consortium of five companies and organizations came together in a joint effort to transform woody biomass, including trees and wood waste, into a gasoline product suitable for use in today’s automobiles. The collaborative project was cost shared between the project participants and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) using funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
For every barrel of crude oil used in the United States, 16% goes toward making products ranging from everyday plastics to specialty chemicals in addition to making liquid fuels. From deli containers to industrial lubricants, these chemicals and products are a crucial, yet almost invisible part of our daily lives.
A team of five freshmen from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design in Brooklyn, New York—designed an infographic on the benefits of cellulosic ethanol and were invited as guests to the eight annual conference, Bioenergy 2015, in Washington, D.C.
Selling corn stover—the non-edible corn stalks, husks, and leaves of a corn plant—after the corn harvest has generated a new revenue stream for many farmers. Biorefineries buy the corn plant residue from farmers and turn it into cellulosic ethanol, allowing farmers to "add revenue without adding acres."
Energy Department technology Offices showcase how EERE’s strategic investments in sustainable transportation technologies are improving vehicle efficiency and advancing the use of alternative fuel vehicles.
At the Bioenergy Technologies Office, we’re working with public and private partners to develop an industry of advanced biofuels and bioproducts from non-food biomass sources that is commercially and environmentally sustainable. In the United States, our energy landscape is changing, and biofuels can play an important role since it is the only near-term liquid transportation fuel alternative to petroleum.
We are very excited to announce our first ever bioenergy quiz—an online, interactive tool that’s both enlightening and entertaining! Interested in participating? Just click the link in the photo above and let the game begin.
Energy Department-funded scientists at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) California Center for Algae Biotechnology have successfully demonstrated a uniquely Californian solution to replacing fossil fuels—surfboards made from algae.
I was honored to speak at the Agricultural Outlook Forum this spring, hosted by our friends at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This year’s theme was “Smart Agriculture in the 21st Century.” The smart solution when it comes to establishing a bioeconomy—renewable, biomass resources as a solid part of our nation’s energy mix—is working together.
Engaging and supporting the next generation of renewable energy researchers and innovators is one of the important roles the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) plays in advancing bioenergy and biofuels. BETO provides numerous resources from biomass basics to information about lesson plans and tools for educators. Our materials are suitable for K–12 students, undergraduates and graduates, scientists and engineers, high school teachers and college professors, and anyone interested in learning about the future of energy.
It may look like ordinary farm equipment, but take a second look. This innovative machinery was developed with Energy Department funding to help biofuels become more affordable. Looking more closely at this image and accompanying infographic, you can see that this combination harvester both harvests and bales corn cobs, husks, stalks, and residue all in one step. Its purpose is to save the time and money required to harvest corn stover feedstock for biofuel production, ultimately helping make biofuel from non-food sources cost-competitive with petroleum gasoline.
U.S. gasoline prices are currently at their lowest point since 2009, saving you money at the pump. The Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is looking beyond current gas prices and working to lower the cost of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol—which can be blended with gasoline—and “drop-in” hydrocarbon fuels—which can directly replace gasoline.
Widely recognized as the “Oscars of Invention,” the 52nd R&D 100 Awards ceremony took place last week. These awards identify and honor major technological breakthroughs each year. The categories cover industry, academia, and government research. This year, EERE-funded projects won six awards across four of our technology areas: Bioenergy, Fuel Cells/Solar, and Vehicles.
For years, farmers have been using cornstalks to make scarecrows, preventing crows and other predators from destroying their crops. This fall, the Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office is using cornstalks for a different purpose—bioenergy production.
Earlier this month, on September 19, 2014, Energy Department (DOE) Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman joined Secretary Tom Vilsack of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Secretary Ray Mabus of the Department of Navy (Navy) to announce three projects that will produce renewable jet and diesel for the military. DOE, USDA, and Navy are working with private industry to produce advanced drop-in biofuels that can be used by the Department of Defense and the private transportation sector.
Today, the nation's first ever commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery to use corn waste as a feedstock officially opened for business in Emmetsburg, Iowa. POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY is the second of two Energy Department-funded cellulosic ethanol biorefineries to come on line within the past year. Learn more about how the Energy Department is helping the nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil and move the clean energy economy forward.
The United States airline industry uses 23 billion gallons of fuels on passenger and cargo airlines annually, and globally, the international airline industry was the source of 777 million tons of carbon emissions in 2013.