© Charles Bensinger/Renewable Energy Partners of New Mexico
Last week, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman announced that his department plans to invest as much as $250 million in alternative energy over the next five years. The idea, he said, is to spur American companies and universities to find more efficient methods of creating automotive fuels such as ethanol derived from renewable sources, including soybeans, wood chips and agricultural waste. The plan calls for the creation of two separate biofuel testing facilities to conduct basic biological research on how to extract energy from various plant fibers using a cellulosic process.
“You’ve got to get away from worrying about just oil,” Bodman told reporters. The Energy Department is calling for the stepped-up research and development in energy alternatives as a step toward meeting a Congressionally mandated requirement that at least 7.5 billion gallons of renewable motor fuel be available to American consumers by 2012. Bodman added that federal research into alternative fuels will only bolster private efforts already underway, thanks to big renewable investments from Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
In related news, BP announced August 8 that it was shutting down half the production on Alaska’s North Slope due to the discovery of severe and potentially debilitating corrosion on a major oil transit line emanating out of Prudhoe Bay. The price of crude oil surged 1.7 percent on the news to more than $76 a barrel, meaning consumers, especially those in the western U.S. can expect to see record high prices at the pump over the next few weeks. BP is unable to say how long it will take the company to replace the 16 miles of corroded pipeline under its command.