The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) establishes partnerships with key public and private stakeholders to develop 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 government, industrial, academic, agricultural, and nonprofit partners across the United States to develop commercially viable, high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower made from renewable U.S. biomass resources that reduce our dependence on imported oil while enhancing energy security.
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 are compatible with existing infrastructure and could directly fill your car's gas tank, warm your house, or help power an airplane. With research and development dedicated to producing these fuels sustainably and affordably, we can provide home-grown supplements for a transportation sector that is heavily dependent on foreign oil. In addition, we’re supporting the development of bioproducts, which enable biofuels, since the production of bioproducts relies on much of the same feedstocks, infrastructure, and technologies that are central to biofuel production. This support is moving the United States toward a more secure, sustainable, and economically sound future.
- Promoting national security by developing domestic sources of energy—In 2015, the United States imported more than 3.4 billion barrels of petroleum from about 88 countries, amounting to approximately one-quarter of all petroleum used in the United States. 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 partnership with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the Defense Protection Act, DOE is co-funding the construction of three integrated biorefineries that will have the capacity to produce hydrocarbon fuels that meet military specifications. Federal investment in these commercial-scale biorefinery projects 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. DOE focuses solely on non-food feedstocks, which do not affect food supply or prices, and often have ancillary benefits. For example, producing energy from waste sources is a double win because it helps address the growing problem of what to do with this waste. And grasses planted specially to produce fuels could be grown with minimal land-use change and could actually prove beneficial by reducing erosion and nutrient runoff, thus protecting water sources. Biomass resources can also be managed sustainably by following such practices as ensuring that sufficient nutrients are returned to the soil when harvesting agricultural residues and allowing adequate time for plant regeneration between harvests. Using forest management best practices to collect and remove dead trees can even help to improve forest health and mitigate fire risk. Through field- and laboratory-based research, computer modeling, and advanced analysis, the Office investigates the life-cycle contributions of bioenergy production to cleaner air, improved soil quality, enhanced water quality, lower harmful emissions, greater biodiversity, and increased use of marginal croplands. The 2016 Billion-Ton Report documented the magnitude of the biomass resource potential across the contiguous United States, and concluded that the United States could sustainably triple its annual biomass production by 2030.
- Generating green jobs by stimulating the U.S. bioenergy economy—Biofuels are truly home-grown fuels. Biofuel feedstocks are produced by U.S. farmers and other landowners, generating jobs and economic activity across rural America. The money that the United States spends on the research, development, and use of biofuels recirculates in our economy, providing further indirect economic and trade benefits. Estimates based on a recent study led by DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest that that if the United States were to triple its biomass production, we could potentially generate 1.1 million direct jobs and $260 billion in direct revenue. A resilient bioenergy industry will provide a variety of jobs across several sectors, including scientific research, agriculture, engineering, construction, plant operations, and sales. Also, since the bioeconomy would draw on a variety of biomass sources, the United States would have greater flexibility to accommodate market fluctuations.
- Leading global technology innovation—Breakthroughs in bioconversion technologies and successes in scaling up technologies for commercial operations promote U.S. leadership in global clean energy innovation. Advances can provide benefits in such related areas as agricultural production and food processing. Investments in bioprocessing will also help to reduce production costs, improve process and product reliability, and increase profitability. U.S. leadership in this growing sector will improve competitiveness in global markets.