Good or Evil, Corporate Biofuel Gets $5 Mil of Your Money

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced that 37 research projects, including one launched locally, are in line for $151 million in federal funding that aims to "develop nimble, creative and inventive approaches to transform the global energy landscape," according to a department statement.

The local recipient, Thousand Oaks-based Ceres, Inc., is a for-profit biofuel company that recently lobbied the U.S. Senate to create an energy and climate bill it and other proponents contend will help create more than a million jobs. The company has spent $400,000 since 2005 to lobby for climate, renewable energy and appropriations bills. Nice return.

Problem is, the effectiveness of biofuel in combatting American dependence on foreign (and domestic) oil is negligible at best. There is an increasing drumbeat against biofuels made from corn, sugarcane, soybeans, and palm oil because its production creates greenhouse gasses, takes lots of land away from food production (and thus increases food prices), and uses lots of water while barely making a dent in fossil fuel usage. A Time magazine piece cites growing evidence that biofuel "may be worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they're meant to supplement."

But firms like Ceres, heavily invested in biofuel, are trying to make it work anyway. In fact, that's why the company is getting nearly $5 million from the feds: It's researching "genes that enable energy crops to produce more biomass using less land (and lower quality land), less water, and less fertilizer than standard energy crops," according to a Department of Energy statement.

"This approach would provide sustainable biofeedstocks to displace oil and coal for fuels and power production," says the DOE.

Yeah -- good luck with that.

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