Biomass: Growing American Energy Independence
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Russell Senate Office Building
This briefing was produced within the context of a growing consensus to reduce the United State’s “addiction to foreign oil” and the emergence of biomass energy technology opportunities in policy discussions. Specifically, the FY 2007 budget proposed to invest heavily in emerging biomass research, and U.S. companies were pursuing business opportunities in this exciting energy field. With a recent rise in oil prices, biomass energy and chemical production had not only become possible, but increasingly economically viable.
The panel examined three biomass technologies: cellulosic ethanol, biorefining, and biodiesel and explored both how their development would enhance U.S. energy security, and the challenges that lay ahead.
The ACS Science & the Congress Project in conjunction with the Senate Science & Technology Caucus and ACS Corporation Associates
ACS Briefs Congress on Energy Technologies
ACS Capitol Connection
With energy prices rising and debate on Capitol Hill heating up, ACS sponsored two Science & the Congress briefings to discuss biomass and nuclear energy technologies—hot topics in the current energy debate. Biomass received prominent mention in the president’s State of the Union address and, with high gasoline prices, is a current darling of Wall Street with numerous companies building new or expanding ethanol and other biobased fuel production. Nuclear energy, while still producing 25 percent of U.S. electricity, has spent years in the policy hinterland in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. Recently, however, with rising concern about climate change, interest in nuclear energy is experiencing a renaissance for electricity generation and potential as a source of hydrogen production in the future.
On June 21, ACS partnered with the Senate Science and Technology Caucus to sponsor a Science & the Congress briefing on new technologies titled “Biomass: Growing American Energy Independence.” The event featured remarks by Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Ken Salazar (D-CO). Dr. Dan Arivizu of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory moderated a panel that included Dr. Paul Bloom of Archer Daniels Midland, Brian Foody of Iogen Corp, and Michael Parr of Dupont Chemical.
After giving an overview of the state of biomass technology, Dr. Arivizu turned the presentation over to Iogen CEO Brian Foody, whose company is among the leaders in developing enzymes to improve the economic viability of cellulosic ethanol conversion, which is primarily derived from corn plant waste or other material like switch grass. Mr. Foody gave an overview of Iogen’s current production facilities in Canada and the process by which it developed its groundbreaking conversion process. Iogen is slated to build a major cellulosic ethanol plant in America and recently received a large venture capital infusion from Goldman Sachs.
Michael Parr of Dupont discussed the company’s biorefining program which involves a marketable fabric called Sonoma and Dupont’s recently announced partnership with British Petroleum to develop biobutanol, a more-stable biobased (relative to ethanol) fuel that Dupont and BP hope will revolutionize the biofuel industry.
Finally, Dr. Bloom of ADM reviewed the company’s current biofuel production, among the largest in the nation, along with the biodiesel production and ADM’s work to convert waste products from the biofuel production process into marketable chemicals.
On June 12, ACS partnered with the Foundation for Nuclear Studies for a briefing with the Senate Nuclear Caucus titled “Climate Change: What is the Role of Next Generation Nuclear Energy and Hydrogen?” Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) made remarks and panelists included Vice Admiral John J. Grossenbacher (Ret.), of the Idaho National Laboratory, the nation’s leading nuclear power technology lab. The panel included Joseph Romm, author of “The Hype about Hydrogen: Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate” and John Ritch, World Nuclear Association.
Admiral Grossenbacher presented recent developments in nuclear power design, including next-generation reactor design. Mr. Romm discussed the challenges to establishing a hydrogen-based economy and the need to address climate change in a comprehensive fashion. Mr. Ritch discussed the overall potential of hydrogen production from nuclear power and the role of nuclear-electricity production in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. Although the participants disagreed about the future of hydrogen technology and its viability, each agreed that nuclear power will likely play an expanded role in American energy production in the future if reducing or limiting carbon emissions is a policy goal.