Wednesday, February 07, 2007

BP Funds Berkeley in Biofuels Research

BP Funds Berkeley in Biofuels Research
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - Energy giant BP recently gave $500 million to the University of California, Berkeley, with The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to build a research facility that will develop new sources of energy.

The BP Energy Biosciences Institute will be housed in UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois. Initially, the focus of the institute will be research on biotechnology to produce biofuels - turning plants and plant material into transportation fuels.

The institute's long-term plans will be research into the production of alternative fuels, converting fossil fuels to energy with less environmental damage, maximizing oil extraction from existing wells in environmentally sensitive ways, and finding ways to store or sequester carbon to impede its negative affects to the atmosphere.

"With global warming and security implications about the countries where we get our fossil fuel from, this is a way to develop non-polluting sources of fuel," said Robert Sanders, a spokesperson for the University of California, Berkeley. "The center will also boost the economy by creating jobs and placing California at the center of energy research in the United States."

Last June, BP announced that it would invest $500 million over 10 years to fund research aimed at bioscience and applying its findings to the production of new and cleaner energy to be used for transport. BP invited five universities in October to submit plans for an institute to explore sources of energy for the future.

The creation of such a center will have major impact on the biotechnology industry in the Bay Area.

"We need to keep in mind that this is a regional institute," said Michael Amman, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp. "Our expanding research community and our location between the Bay Area and Sacramento positions Solano County to become a major player in the Energy Biosciences Institute's activities."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

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