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The Quest to Develop Second-Generation Biofuels


Narrator: This is Science Today. The Energy Biosciences Institute, or EBI, is a 500 million dollar, 10-year research initiative to explore biological approaches to the production of clean, sustainable energy. Director Chris Somerville says EBI researchers, including those from UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, are striving to better understand the potential benefits and pitfalls of large-scale biofuel production.

Sommerville: There's no single solution to climate change - we need to decarbonize the energy supply, but in order to do that, we're going to have to use a whole basket of technologies to provide energy.

Narrator: This includes investing in wind, geothermal and photovoltaic technologies, but Sommerville says the research they're doing is unique.

Sommerville: Everything we're focused on is on what's called second-generation biofuels, which are cellulosic ethanol. So, in this case we're using the whole body of the plant to make fuels and we're focused on plants that are generally not food plants because there's a lot of plants out in nature that have never been domesticated that are much more productive than the plants we use for food.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.