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A Big Win for Algae in the Senate

Late last week the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up the FY-16 Energy & Water Appropriations bill, the legislation that funds most of the federal government’s energy and water efforts.

In a big win for algae, in addition to matching the House-proposed $30 million for targeted algae biofuels research at the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, the Senate bill includes $45 million for the joint Navy-USDA collaboration on algae-based and other advanced biofuels, and a major increase in funding – from $2 million in FY 2015 to $10 million in FY 2016 – for algae and other carbon utilization research under DOE’s Fossil Energy program.

Carbon utilization has been a major ABO priority because the technology can unlock the CO2 that the industry needs to create a new source of sustainable products and contribute to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. From the bill’s text:

“The Committee recognizes that finding new commercial uses for captured carbon could significantly offset the costs of capturing and sequestering carbon from our Nation’s coal-fired power plants. The Committee encourages the Secretary to use its existing authorities to fund activities that promote the reuse of captured carbon from coal and other sources in the production of fuels and other products. The Committee also urges the Secretary to support other carbon dioxide utilization technologies in addition to Enhanced Oil Recovery [EOR], including using carbon dioxide to produce algae. The Committee encourages the Office of Fossil Energy to collaborate with the Bioenergy Technologies program within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to support projects that utilize carbon dioxide in the production of algae”

This is a striking achievement that could not have happened without the hard work and invaluable personal outreach by ABO members, as well as the key Senate offices that championed the cause of new and innovative algae technologies.

It is important to note that algae-based biofuels are not the only winners here. The Committee included language recommending that research also focus on the many other products that can be produced from algae, especially since the knowledge and infrastructure to produce them will help the industry achieve the efficiencies and scale required to ultimately produce large volumes of biofuels.

From the bill:

“The Committee recognizes research and development focused on higher value co-products is an effective strategy for lowering the cost of converting biomass to advanced biofuels.”

This is a great accomplishment for the algae community, but much work remains if we are to secure this progress in the final funding package put forth by Congress. We will be calling on you in the coming days to play your part!

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