Biotechnology Industry Organization: Biofuel Production

Published online: Mar 06, 2008 Brent Erickson
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Industrial biotechnology companies are making rapid progress toward bringing cost-competitive cellulosic ethanol to U.S. consumers. A few U.S. companies are already deploying technology to produce cellulosic ethanol, while others have announced research and demonstration projects that will improve efficiency, further reduce costs and enhance the environmental benefits of biofuels. One company has been producing cellulosic ethanol since 2004, and more than 20 companies are constructing or operating biorefineries to gather further data needed to increase commercial production. Industrial biotech companies are also researching and developing technology for advanced biofuels-biobased alcohol and hydrocarbon fuels that can directly substitute for petroleum. Companies have used life-science techniques to discover, enhance and develop novel enzymes and microbes that convert biomass-crop residues, grasses and trees-into the building blocks of fuels and chemicals. This research is moving forward at a tremendous pace, promising next-generation biofuels that significantly reduce reliance on petroleum. And the research advancements are not just in biofuels. New projects have been announced recently that will produce not just biofuels, but also plastics, chemicals and energy from renewable plant sources instead of oil. These products are already cost-competitive with petroleum-based products and provide significant ecological advantages. The Washington International Renewable Energy Conference 2008 conference highlights the need to develop alternatives to petroleum. BIO supports the production of ethanol from all feedstocks. Agricultural biotechnology is helping to increase corn yields, while industrial biotechnology is helping to convert corn starch and crop residues into ethanol more efficiently. With ongoing advances in biotechnology, biofuels can help America meet nearly half its transportation-fuel needs by the middle of this century. For more information visit www.bio.org