Bioenergy

Plant Science Advances U.S. Potential for Ethanol from Biomass

American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) President Michael Thomashow, Ph.D., indicated that the recently launched Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI) and American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) will help the nation pull away from its increasing dependence on foreign oil.

According to the release, the opportunities in plant and microbial research to more efficiently produce and convert biomass to ethanol are much greater today with our increasing knowledge of plant genomes, plant physiology and of modern plant transformation technologies. “Future studies on plant cell wall (biomass), plant genomes, plant physiology and cellulose conversion are among the areas that will help transition a major segment of the nation’s transportation fuels sector away from imported gasoline, to domestically grown, cleaner burning biofuels,” said Thomashow, University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. As an example, he added, “Brazil moved to energy independence with help from research on the sugar cane genome and related plant research.” “As DOE and USDA reported in April of last year, with advances in research, we can transition from having one in fifty cars on America’s roads powered by biofuels to one in three cars running on biofuels. This shift to biofuels will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the nation’s growing trade deficit, spur local economies, and help serve as a stabilizing effect against future energy price shocks,” Thomashow said. Thomashow noted the science community’s appreciation for The President’s leadership in launching both the AEI and the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science and the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The DOE and USDA report (pdf) cited by Thomashow, “Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Supply” (April 05, 78 pp), can be found at the link below.