WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The biotechnology industry is leading the way for the United States to achieve energy security, compete in the global economy and address climate change, said Andrew Karsner, assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in a keynote speech delivered Saturday during the Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO) World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing.



The fourth annual World Congress, held at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla., ended Saturday.



In his keynote address, "The Bush Administration's Initiatives to Spur Commercial Development of Cellulosic Ethanol," Karsner applauded the industrial biotechnology gathering, saying that ethanol from cellulose is the "most effective in achieving reductions of greenhouse gases." Karsner said the nation needs to adopt a "vision of the future we want," which includes large amounts of renewable biofuels for transportation. Karsner has been a leader in efforts to commercialize production of ethanol from cellulose and he also leads the DOE's efforts to carry out the Advanced Energy Initiative, which aims to accelerate breakthroughs in the way we power our cars, homes, and businesses.



Karsner also promoted the President's "Twenty In Ten" plan to reduce America's dependence on oil by reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years. Last week, Karsner noted, President Bush called on Congress to pass bipartisan energy legislation before the start of the summer driving season. He called the plan "the most ambitious domestic energy policy ever adopted by any nation."



In his presentation, Karsner congratulated Abengoa Bioenergy R&D, Inc., Broin Companies, Inc., Iogen Corporation - members of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section - who were among the recipients of the DOE's recently awarded cost-sharing grants for construction of new commercial-scale biorefineries to produce ethanol, plastics and chemicals from cellulose.



Following his speech, Karsner joined in a panel discussion with Dana Flanders, president of Chevron Technology Ventures; Coleman Jones, biofuel implementation manager, General Motors; Ed Williams, founder, Century Harvest Heat; and James Hettenhaus, CEA Inc. The panel debated the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid scale-up of a renewable biofuels industry. Each participant called for the United States to adopt a national vision that would guide all segments of the renewable biofuels industry, including the automobile and agriculture industries, in achieving rapid growth.



Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section, said, "The World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing comes at a very exciting time, as the commercialization of ethanol from cellulose is becoming a reality. The Department of Energy's recently announced cost-sharing grants demonstrate that ethanol facilities can be built throughout the United States, utilizing locally available cellulosic biomass feedstocks."



In a morning plenary, titled "How Forward-Looking States Are Growing a Biobased Economy through Infrastructure and Value Chain Development," state agriculture and energy officials discussed regional efforts to develop biotechnology industries. David Fleischaker, Oklahoma Energy Secretary; Mitch Irwin, Michigan Department of Agriculture Director, and Adrian Polansky, Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary, each outlined the investments, incentives and regulatory policies their states are adopting to transition to a biobased economy through industrial biotechnology and renewable agricultural feedstocks.



Fleischaker emphasized Oklahoma's plan to finance research into sustainable production of dedicated energy crops for ethanol from cellulose. Irwin noted that development of alternative fuels in Michigan is being driven by the state's automotive and agriculture industries - the state's two largest industries. Polansky discussed Kansas' efforts to attract biotechnology companies and highlighted the recent DOE grant given to Abengoa Bionergy, based in Kansas, to build a cellulosic biorefinery.



Erickson concluded, "The companies at the forefront of developing industrial biotechnology - the key enabling technology that makes modern biorefineries run - attended the World Congress to explore the next steps in bringing these applications to the marketplace. This conference was a real opportunity for investors and business executives to learn about the latest technological developments in producing ethanol from cellulose and to explore partnerships and deals to commercialize industrial biotechnology."



The World Congress was hosted by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the American Chemical Society, the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council, the European Federation of Biotechnology, BIOTECanada and EuropaBIO.



BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and 31 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the annual BIO International Convention, the world's largest biotechnology conference and exhibition.



SOURCE: Biotechnology Industry Organization via Business Wire.