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House Committee Will Hold Hearing on Bioenergy Research and Development for the Fuels and Chemicals of Tomorrow
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On March 16, 2022, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on “Bioenergy Research and Development for the Fuels and Chemicals of Tomorrow.” According to the hearing charter, the purpose of the hearing is to examine the status of bioenergy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The hearing will also consider advancements in bioenergy research and the potential role of this resource in a cleaner energy transition. Lastly, the hearing will help inform future legislation to support and guide the United States’ bioenergy RD&D enterprise. Witnesses will include:

  • Dr. Jonathan Male, Chief Scientist for Energy Processes and Materials, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL);
     
  • Dr. Andrew Leakey, Director of the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign;
     
  • Dr. Laurel Harmon, Vice President of Government Affairs, LanzaTech; and
     
  • Dr. Eric Hegg, Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University.

The hearing charter notes that in addition to fuels, biomass can be used to create valuable chemicals and materials, known as “bioproducts.” According to the hearing charter, approximately 16 percent of U.S. crude oil consumption is used to make petrochemicals and products, such as plastics for industrial and consumer goods, fertilizers, and lubricants. Common biobased products include household cleaners, paints and stains, personal care items, plastic bottles and containers, packaging materials, soaps and detergents, lubricants, clothing, and building materials. The hearing charter states that the production of bioproducts relies on much of the same feedstocks, infrastructure, feedstock commoditization, and technologies that are central to biofuels production. Therefore, according to DOE, once technologies are proven for bioproduct applications, they could be readily transferred and greatly improve biofuel production.