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Joint BioEnergy Institute is Officially Dedicated

December 03, 2008
 
Feature

Lynn Yarris (510) 486-5375, lcyarris@lbl.gov

EMERYVILLE, CA — Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman and Congressman Jerry McNerney, were on hand along with representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to officially dedicate the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), one of the three new Bioenergy Research Centers established by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under Bodman’s leadership.

Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman (left) and Jay Keasling, Chief Executive Officer of JBEI.

The dedication was held on December 2, 2008 at JBEI’s new state-of-the-art laboratory facility in Emeryville.

“The threat of a warming planet and the need to diversify our energy sources while supplying transportation fuels for a growing population are the drivers for the creation of JBEI,” said Jay Keasling, the Chief Executive Officer of JBEI, in his opening remarks. “JBEI’s mission is to do the research needed to break down the barriers that have heretofore prevented the use of cellulosic biomass as a source for advanced transportation fuels.”

JBEI is a $135 million scientific partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and including the Sandia National Laboratories, the University of California campuses of Berkeley and Davis, the Carnegie Institution for Science (located at Stanford), and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Its five-year mission is to advance the development of the next generation of biofuels – liquid fuels derived from the solar energy stored in plant biomass. With the right technology-transforming scientific breakthroughs, biofuels could play a significant role in helping to meet the nation’s annual transportation energy needs without producing carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change.

In June 2007, when Secretary Bodman announced that DOE would be investing $375 million in three new bioenergy research centers, he called the creation of these centers “the most important thing we do during my time as Secretary of Energy.” In his remarks at the JBEI dedication, he reiterated his firm belief in the need for renewable biofuels and his strong support for bioenergy research.

“America cannot sustain the level of biofuels production needed to meet our future energy requirements if we do not expand our ethanol production beyond food stocks like corn,” the Secretary said. “We must move to the next level. That is why JBEI, along with the two other bioenergy research centers, have been established and funded by the Department of Energy.”

In making the case that the next generation of sustainable biofuels will reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil, as well as reduce net carbon dioxide emissions, Secretary Bodman said that the federal government must focus on sustainability issues and on building the knowledge base that can guide the development of future biofuels in a sustainable fashion.

“To ensure America’s energy security now and into the future, we must have a robust, vibrant and sustainable next-generation biofuels industry here in the United States,” Secretary Bodman said. “That is why this Joint BioEnergy Institute is so important.”

Another strong proponent of JBEI was Raymond Orbach, Under Secretary for Science at DOE, whose Office of Science funds JBEI and the two other bioenergy research centers.

“Ray could not be with us today but I would like to thank him nonetheless,” said Keasling. “His support and enthusiasm for JBEI have been absolutely critical to its development.”

In his remarks, Congressman McNerney (D-Pleasanton), thanked Secretary Bodman, Keasling and Berkeley Lab Director Steven Chu for their “diligent work” in making JBEI possible.

“We here in the Bay Area are lucky to be living in a place and at a time when there is so much going on in the way of technology advancement,” Congressman McNerney said. “There are going to be some large advancements here at JBEI and there are going to be some small advancements, and over time we are going to see real progress being made. Know that you will have the support of those of us in Washington, D.C. We will have your backs as you move forward in progress.”

In his remarks, Berkeley Lab Director Chu, one of the leading public advocates for the development of renewable energy sources, recalled how the nation’s top scientists had rallied in the past to meet critical national needs, citing the development of radar and the atomic bomb during World War II. He called on scientists to do so once again in the face of the threat posed by global climate changes that are being exacerbated by the burning of fossil fuels.

“The reality of past threats was apparent to everyone whereas the threat of global climate change is not so immediately apparent,” said Chu. “Nonetheless, this threat has just got to be solved. We can’t fail. The fact that we have so many brilliant people working on the problem gives me great hope.”

Keasling in his introduction of the Berkeley Lab Director said that JBEI was in many ways the brainchild of Chu.

“Long before renewable energy and global warming moved to the forefront of the national consciousness, Steve Chu envisioned the Helios Program at Berkeley Lab to develop new sources of transportation fuels from sunlight. Steve’s steadfast support of JBEI from concept to implementation has helped to make JBEI what it is today.”

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at www.lbl.gov

Bodman Praises JBEI in Chronicle Editorial

Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman penned an editorial about the DOE Bioenergy Research Center that was published in the December 2 issue of San Francisco Chronicle. “The challenge before us is to develop a new generation of biofuels – fuels made from cellulose, algae and other nonfood products, and fuels that are compatible with the existing energy infrastructure like renewable diesel,” he wrote. “Through efforts like the Joint BioEnergy Institute, the Bush administration is laying the groundwork for a more secure energy future for everyone.”

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