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US unveils $65M funding for biofuels research to cut ship emissions

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $64.7 million in funding for 22 projects focused on producing cost-effective, low-carbon biofuels for ships and airplanes.

As explained, the investments will advance technologies to create replacements for petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of transportation and accelerate America’s path to a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

“Decarbonizing transportation – particularly planes and ships that are difficult to electrify – is an essential part of the path to a net-zero carbon future,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said.

As part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Grand Challenge, DOE also signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Agriculture to collaborate on the needed research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to reach the goals of supplying at least 3 billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and sufficient SAF to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand – currently 35 billion gallons per year – by 2050.

These efforts seek to cut carbon emissions from the shipping and aviation industries, which – because of their size – are more challenging to electrify.

Biofuels, which are produced by converting the renewable carbon from recently living organic materials like crop waste, food waste, and algae into liquid fuel, can serve as a low-carbon equivalent to fossil-based fuels such as gasoline, jet, and diesel fuel.

“We must cut emissions in aviation and commercial shipping if we’re going to meet our net-zero goals,” U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (CO) pointed out.

“By reducing the price of biofuels, we can incentivize the use of more sustainable options in the aviation industry and help accelerate our path to a cleaner future,” U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) said.

The 22 selected projects target high-impact bioenergy technology RD&D to bolster foundational knowledge and scale-up systems to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs.

These investments are administered by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), which is focused on developing technologies that convert domestic biomass and other waste resources into low-carbon biofuels and bioproducts.

BETO is increasing its emphasis on partnering with industry to demonstrate technologies at large scale in recognition of the urgent need to reduce risks and scale-up SAF production.