BP Invests $500 Million In Biofuels

British Petroleum announced today that it has selected the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to lead an unprecedented $500 million research effort to develop new sources of energy and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.

The funding will create the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), which initially will focus its research on biotechnology to produce biofuels — that is, turning plants and plant materials, including corn, field waste, switchgrass and algae, into transportation fuels.

At a press conference this morning at UC Berkeley, Robert A. (Bob) Malone, chairman and president of BP America Inc., joined California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in making the announcement.

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"We are delighted to welcome UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to this effort," Malone said. "We are joining with some of the world's best science and engineering talent to meet the world's demand for low-carbon energy. As part of that effort, we will be working to improve and expand the production of clean, renewable energy through the integrated development of better crops, better processing technologies and new biofuels."

"The proposal from UC Berkeley and its partners was selected in large part because these institutions have excellent track records of delivering 'Big Science' — large and complex developments predicated on both scientific breakthroughs and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world," added BP Group Chief Executive John Browne. "This program will further both basic and applied biological research relevant to energy. In short, it will create the discipline of energy biosciences. The institute will be unique in both its scale and its partnership between BP, academia and others in the private sector."

The BP grant dovetails with new energy initiatives at LBNL and UC Berkeley that include the Helios Project and a proposed bioenergy research center, which is in the running for U.S. Department of Energy grants that nationwide would total $250 million. Both projects are devoted to developing sustainable, carbon-neutral sources of energy, such as biomass conversion, which is inherently carbon-neutral.

This article was adapted from a UC Berkeley news release.