Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Bioenergy Biofuels

SUMMARYcore capability wheel

Concerns about global warming, dependence on foreign oil, and rising gasoline prices have spurred a strong interest in bioenergy in the United States. Scientists in the Ecology Department of The Earth Sciences Division at LBNL will be contributing their expertise in microbiology, molecular microbial ecology, and bacterial metabolism to a scientific challenge of great national importance: the efficient production of biofuels.  LBNL has been a key strategic partner in large research initiatives for developing bioenergy, including the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a Department of Energy-funded research center that will receive $125 million over five years, and the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), which is being funded by the energy company BP at a level of $500 million over ten years; both JBEI and EBI began operations in late 2007.  The Ecology Department will play an important role in both JBEI and EBI.  For example, two Ecology Department personnel will serve as Directors in JBEI: the Director of Microbial Communities (responsible for studying the structural and functional dynamics of microbial communities that efficiently degrade lignocellulosic biomass) and the Director of Biofuels Pathways (responsible for discovering genes that can be engineered into metabolic pathways resulting in efficient production of various transportation fuels from cellulose degradation products).  In EBI, Ecology Department scientists will be involved in the study of Microbially Enhanced Hydrocarbon Recovery and will co-lead a Systems Biology program, which will entail the intensive, genome-enabled study of certain bioenergy-related microorganisms (“omics” studies, including transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics).

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