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US looks to go big on biofuels as it diversifies away from foreign oil

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced as much as $90 million in funding for projects relating to the design, construction and operation of "integrated bio-refinery facilities."

In a statement at the end of last week, the DOE described the production of biofuels from "sustainable, non-food, domestic biomass resources" as an important part of the administration's aims to cut both carbon emissions and the U.S.'s reliance on foreign oil.


"The domestic bio-industry could play an important part in the growing clean energy economy and in reducing American dependence on imported oil," Lynn Orr, the DOE's under-secretary for science and energy, said in a news release.

"This funding opportunity will support companies that are working to advance current technologies and help them overcome existing challenges in bioenergy so the industry can meet its full potential," Orr added.

The DOE added that the U.S. is currently spending around $1 billion every three days on "imported oil."

According to the Energy Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it's estimated that the U.S. could produce over a billion tons of biomass that could be turned into biopower, biofuels and bioproducts.

The importance of biofuels is only set to increase. A 2011 report from the IEA projects that by 2050, biofuels could provide 27 percent of the world's transportation fuel.

As technology advances, new, innovative ways of generating biofuels are being developed. Scottish start-up Celtic Renewables has developed technology to turn the by-products of whisky into a next generation biofuel, while London's bio-bean is looking to turn waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels.