Feds Announce New Funds For Berkeley Biofuels Lab

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 02, 2007

UC Berkeley’s biofuel bonanza—$635 million in expected corporate and federal funding—got off to an early start Monday with word of an unexpected $10 million advance from Washington. 

Each of three national Joint Bioenergy Research Centers, including one headquartered at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will focus on using genetic technology to extract fuel from cellulose. 

Undersecretary of Energy for Science Raymond L. Orbach said $9.97 million each will go to LBNL and the other centers, which are based at Madison, Wis., and Oak Ridge, Tenn. 

The news comes less than two weeks after the UC Board of Regents gave their approval to lease a lab site in Emeryville for what the lab has dubbed Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, pronounced jay-bay). 

With the additional funds announced Monday, total federal funding for the JBEI will reach $135 million. 

The lab will involve scientists from UC Berkeley and its affiliated Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national labs as well as experts from UC Davis and Stanford. 

The original $125 million award was announced in Washington June 26 by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, with LBNL’s Jay Keasling standing at his side. 

Keasling is also one of the leading researchers in the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), the $500 million research program funded by BP, plc, the former British Petroleum. 

He also runs his own private firm conducting similar research and located in the same Emeryville building which the regents approved for the JBEI lab. 

EBI researchers will be housed temporarily in existing buildings on the UC campus, including the doomed Calvin Lab, which is slated for demolition as part of the university’s stadium area redevelopment program. 

Scientists from the EBI program will move into the Helios Building at the lab, which is now in the planning stages.