U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and U.S. Representative Zach Wamp today applauded Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for being selected as one of only three sites in the country to receive $125 million over five years to establish and operate one of three new U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Research Centers.
The centers will accelerate research in the development of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels, and make biofuel production cost competitive on a national scale by 2012. ORNL’s BioEnergy Sciences Center (BESC) will focus on improving the biofuel potential of switchgrass and poplar trees.
DOE officials said the Tennessee center would receive $25 million a year for five years, subject to appropriations by Congress. Alexander, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told DOE officials he would work to secure the necessary funding.
“This research center is a perfect fit for Tennessee, which should become a national hub for bioenergy,” said Alexander. “It’s a great complement because it was a fiercely competitive process and winners were selected by peer review from scientists around the world. Combined with the efforts of Governor Bredesen, the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Tennessee Farm Bureau, this center can help produce new jobs for Tennesseans and higher incomes for farmers. We understand that the Governor’s strong initiative contributed to the selection of the Oak Ridge proposal.”
“This is outstanding news for Tennessee in terms of the role our scientific, agricultural, and business communities are playing in our country’s energy security, and it couldn’t come at a better time,” said Corker, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “Last week, with my support, the Senate passed an energy bill that strongly promotes the development of biofuel alternatives to petroleum, and today’s announcement further solidifies Tennessee's leading role in the innovative development of biofuels that will help reduce our gasoline consumption and dependence on foreign oil.”
“Oak Ridge again demonstrates that it is on the cutting edge in alternative energy and will help lead our country to become more energy independent. ORNL led a strong team and it is no surprise that they were selected by the Department of Energy out of 21 teams across the country to host a new BioEnergy Sciences Center. If biofuels are part of the answer to our goal of energy independence, our region will be out front with solutions,” said Wamp, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
The Center will be located in Oak Ridge and led by Martin Keller, a microbiologist recently recruited to ORNL. The University of Tennessee will serve as one of the academic partners, providing specialized instrumentation, plant breeding technologies and new microbe discoveries.