Dr. Todd Anderson, US Department of Energy will give the plenary talk at this year’s 5th Pan-American Congress On Plants and BioEnergy which is taking place August 4-7, 2016 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Dr. Anderson recently shared some of his insight into the bioenergy industry and what to expect from his session.
What’s the biggest challenge you see today in the bioenergy industry especially as it relates to plants?
Maintaining an effort in bioenergy research and development in the face of lower fossil fuel costs is a major challenge for both industry and basic research entities
Biofuels, in particular, face an uphill fight in terms of cost competiveness when petroleum prices are low, but now is not the time to de-emphasize basic research on alternative fuels. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past and drop research and development of alternative energy sources based on ephemeral shifts in oil prices. Within DOE’s Office of Science, we are a fundamental science organization that takes a very long view on energy-related challenges. As part of that view we recognize the fossil-based fuels are ultimately finite and that liquid fuels are an essential element of our current infrastructure. DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research has continued to maintain a strong interest in fundamental research on the development of advanced biofuels from renewable, sustainable biomass. While challenging, we have been able to maintain this focus. An essential component of this focus is on understanding plant biology. We seek to gain a genome-based understanding of a broad range of plants in order to develop dedicated bioenergy crops. By sequencing, analyzing, experimenting with and modeling plants both in the lab and in the field, we seek to uncover the genetic basis for desirable phenotypic traits such as drought tolerance, disease resistance and low nutrient requirements for bioenergy crop development.
What’s are trends you see happening or new developments for scientists?
As the ability to engineer beneficial traits into plants and microorganisms for biofuel purposes expands, these same techniques are being used in new ways to create other products from renewable biomass that we currently get from petroleum. Creating multiple streams of products from a range of renewable biomass sources can provide flexibility to a burgeoning industry to produce and/or tailor the production of biofuels and bioproducts of varying value from biomass. This is fertile ground for scientists interested in researching ways to sustainably produce fuels and chemicals from renewable biomass. Within DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research we are continuing to support research on biofuels and bioproducts development through several elements within the Genomic Science program portfolio including the Bioenergy Research Centers, Biosystems Design, Plant Feedstocks for Bioenergy research and Sustainability Research for Bioenergy.
Is there anything else you want attendees to know about the session?
Within DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research we seek to fund basic research both in the academic community and the DOE National Laboratories. We seek to foster an approach to fundamental genomic science of plants, microbes and microbial communities that combines hypothesis-based experimental research with state-of-the-art measurement and imaging capabilities and high-performance computational modeling in an iterative format that converges on understanding of biological systems of relevance to DOE’s bioenergy and environmental missions.