The U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) establishes partnerships with key public and private stakeholders to develop and demonstrate technologies for producing cost-competitive advanced biofuels from non-food biomass resources, including cellulosic biomass, algae, and wet waste (e.g. biosolids).
What We Do
BETO works with a broad spectrum of industrial, academic, agricultural, and nonprofit partners across the United States to develop and demonstrate commercially viable, high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower made from renewable, U.S. biomass resources that reduce our dependence on imported oil while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
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 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 of advanced renewable transportation fuels per year by 2022. In addition, through our efforts to develop biobased products and increase biopower generation, we’re helping to replace the whole barrel of oil—moving the United States toward a more secure, sustainable, and economically sound future.
- Promoting national security through developing domestic sources of energy
The United States spends more than half a billion dollars per day on imported oil, and petroleum-related products accounted for about half of the nearly $505 billion U.S. trade deficit in 2014. U.S. biofuels can improve this balance by displacing imported oil. 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 with the Departments of the Navy and Agricultural to advance research into military applications of advanced biofuels. The memorandum has led to federal investment in three commercial-scale biorefinery projects that will help meet the transportation needs of the U.S. military and private sector.
- Growing a sustainable future with renewable biomass resources
An expanding bioenergy industry must be sustainable, and we are addressing environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainability 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 biomass 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. Estimates based on recent studies conducted by industry associations suggest that more than 280,000 people are currently employed in positions directly or indirectly supported by ethanol and biodiesel production. , A resilient bioenergy industry will be the source of a variety of jobs across several sectors, including scientific research, agriculture, engineering, construction, plant operations, and sales. Bioenergy jobs also help to stimulate the U.S. economy; a study by the Brookings Institution estimated that every job in the biofuels sector generates a significantly greater value of exports than the average U.S. job.
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