Microbes Make Fuel Directly From Biomass

"Hopes for affordable transportation fuels from biomass with a sustainable, carbon neutral route to American energy independence has been held up by the economics of the biomass conversion process. We’ve seen a lot, sugarcane and corn ethanol which works, various heating methods that remain uneconomic and vast array of organisms trying to make fuels from sunlight and an assortment of carbon sources. So far, industrial scale has only seen sugarcane and corn ethanol go to market in a big way and due to detractors is getting stuck in place from an impressive disinformation campaign."

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USDA Announces Funding Availability for Biomass Material into Energy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin accepting applications June 16 from energy facilities interested in receiving forest or agricultural residues to generate clean energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

BCAP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility. Of the total $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, the 2014 Farm Bill provides up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) each year for matching payments for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues. BCAP matching payments will resume this summer, while crop incentives will begin in 2015. Some matching payments will support the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands.  This will be turned into renewable energy while reducing the risk of forest fire. Agriculture residues, such as corn cobs and stalks, also may qualify as energy-producing feedstock.

With the 2014 Farm Bill requiring several regulatory updates to BCAP, the resumption of payments for starting and maintaining new sources of biomass (Project Areas) has been deferred until a later date when the regulatory updates occur.

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers BCAP, will begin accepting applications from biomass conversion facilities beginning June 16, 2014, through July 14, 2014.  Information on funding availability can be found in the Federal Register notice at:


For more details on applications and deadlines on BCAP, visit a local FSA county office or go online to:


Research Makes Switchgrass Ethanol Cheaper to Produce

"Researchers at the University of Georgia have made a leap ahead in the work to convert switchgrass to a biofuel, a discovery that might make the plants economical to make fuels. The scientists engineered a bacterium called Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, which can convert switchgrass to ethanol without the costly step of pretreatment. Traditionally, biofuel makers have had to pretreat biomass such as switchgrass and miscanthus (which are called lignocellulosic plants) in order to break down plant cell walls before fermentation."

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Engineered Microbe Could Ease Switch to Grass

"Researchers from the University of Georgia and at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have engineered the thermophilic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii to directly convert switchgrass into ethanol, according to a study published today (June 2) in PNAS. The new approach eliminates the need for expensive chemical and enzymatic treatments required to prepare grasses for ethanol production, potentially easing the way for use of sustainable feedstocks like switchgrass to produce biofuels."

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Improving the Way We Harvest & Deliver Biofuels Crops

"America is the largest biofuels producer in the world -- accounting for 48 percent of global output. To remain the global industry leader, the Energy Department is investing in projects that address critical barriers to continued growth. This includes a key focus on improving feedstock logistics -- the processes we use to collect grasses, plants and other organic material prior to converting them into clean, renewable fuel."

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DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory Partners with Vertimass LLC to Commercialize Biofuel Technology

"Vertimass LLC, a California-based start-up company, licensed a technology created by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). This revolutionary technology—set to move to commercial scale in the next 4–6 years—is a biofuel-to-hydrocarbon blend for use in transportation fuels. This biomass-derived fuel can be blended into gasoline, jet fuels, and diesel; lowers greenhouse gas emissions; and supports the White House’s plan to decrease U.S. dependency on foreign oils."

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Biomass Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

"Scientists and engineers at the Energy Department and its national laboratories are finding new, more efficient ways to convert biomass into biofuels that can take the place of conventional fuels like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Environmental Science Division, graduate students and researchers use transplanted trees in a number of studies, including those involving biomass conversion to biofuels. In this photo, graduate student Alina Campbell is removing damaged leaves from Eastern Cottonwood trees, which helps stimulate the trees' growth."

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Ceres: Making Biofuels Bigger and Better

"Energy crops are plants that can be used to make biofuels. The ideal crop can be grown quickly and densely with as little input as possible from farmers on land that’s otherwise unusable by agrarians. Once harvested, these energy crops can be converted into biofuel through various processes.

Research into energy crops and advanced biofuels, like one particular project funded by ARPA-E, contributes to U.S. energy independence, creates jobs, and directly applies to increasing food crops production.

In late 2009, ARPA-E awarded Ceres, an energy crop company, $5 million to field test high-yield, low-input traits in grasses such as switchgrass, sorghum and miscanthus. Since then, Ceres has produced testgrass yields with up to 50 percent more biomass than other grasses—a promising indicator of success."

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