The U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office is focused on forming cost-share partnerships with key stakeholders to develop, demonstrate, and deploy technologies for advanced biofuels production from lignocellulosic and algal biomass.
What We Do
We work with a broad spectrum of industrial, academic, agricultural, and nonprofit partners across the United States to develop and deploy commercially viable, high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower from renewable biomass resources in America to reduce our dependence on imported oil.
Why It Matters
The creation of a robust, next-generation domestic bioenergy industry is one of the important pathways for providing Americans with sustainable, renewable energy alternatives. Imagine, for example, a transportation fuel made from an energy crop that can grow on marginal lands unsuitable for producing food, or even from municipal waste or algae. Such fuels could go directly into your car's gas tank, warm your house, or help power an airplane. With research and development to produce these fuels sustainably and affordably, we can provide home-grown alternatives for a transportation sector that is so heavily dependent on oil. These efforts also support the goal of the Renewable Fuel Standard included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 of producing 21 billion gallons per year of advanced renewable transportation fuels by 2022 and increasing biopower generating capacity. Through our efforts to replace the whole barrel of oil with biobased products, we're helping the United States move toward a more secure, sustainable, and economically sound future.
- Promoting national security through developing domestic sources of energy
The United States spends nearly $1 billion a day on imported oil,1 and petroleum-related products accounted for more than half of the nearly $498 billion U.S. trade deficit in 2010.2 U.S. biofuels can improve this balance by decreasing imports—ethanol alone displaces about $20.9 billion worth of imported gasoline annually. Reducing dependence on foreign oil requires developing technologies to replace gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heavy distillates, and a range of biobased chemicals and products. In 2011, the Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding Between The Department Of The Navy And The Department of Energy And the Department of Agriculture with the Departments of the Navy and Agricultural to advance research into military applications of advanced biofuels.
- Growing a sustainable future with renewable biomass resources
An expanding bioenergy industry must be sustainable, and we are addressing environmental, social, and economic issues along the entire bioenergy supply chain. Our analytical tools and data help support decision making across a range of biofuels scenarios; focus research on pathways with the best potential for commercialization; and demonstrate progress toward goals. Through field- and laboratory-based research, computer modeling, and advanced analysis, the Office investigates the life-cycle impacts of bioenergy production on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air, improved soil quality, enhanced water quality, biodiversity, and the use of marginal croplands. The Energy Department's 2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update documented the magnitude of the resource potential across the contiguous United States.
- Generating green jobs by stimulating a bioenergy economy
The reduction in petroleum imports and increase in domestic, renewable biomass use will help keep jobs in this country. Employment in the U.S. biofuels industry has grown by 8.9% annually since 2004 and represents 20,680 direct jobs (and tens of thousands of indirect jobs) today and is expected to continue growth.3 A resilient bioenergy industry will be the source of a variety of jobs across several sectors—from plant breeding, farming, and the use of energy-efficient railroads to biochemical engineering and microbiology. Bioenergy jobs also help to stimulate the U.S. economy; a study by Brookings Institute estimated that every job in the biofuels sector generates a significantly greater value of exports than the average U.S. job.
1. Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.gov/
2. U.S. Census, U.S. Oil Imports
3. Brookings-Battelle Clean Economy Database, http://www.brookings.edu/about/programs/metro/clean-economy