It's only been three months since Californians voted down Prop 87 - The Clean Alternative Energy Initiative. We may never know what research and advancements would have resulted from the plan's taxation of California oil producers (mostly Chevron).
However, it now appears that we will see what BP's (aka British Petroleum or Beyond Petroleum) corporate investment in similar research will accomplish. Even though the $500 million represents about 1/8th the total sought by Prop 87, it will, in all likelihood, be more efficiently applied to solving the problems. If nothing else the major stakeholders in the bid winning collaboration - UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois/Urbana Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab had to compete for the opportunity. They also received the backing of the State government who made substantial tax concessions to make the offer more attractive.
Undoubtedly, this is good news for venture capitalists in Silicon Valley who are poised to read business implications into every innovation developed from the research. The Biosciences Institute is a great "seed" enterprise that will impact the rate of learning and deployment of important advances in bioenergy. Kudos to all parties involved.
Competition is key to stimulating advancements faster and more efficiently. Maybe Chevron, who stood to lose $3-4 Billion if Prop 87 had passed, will pick up the gauntlet and invest in a similar research collaboration elsewhere. Now that the formula has been set, there is more than one state interested in being home to biofuel development.
Here are some excerpts from BP's press release...
BP Selects Strategic Partners For Energy Biosciences Institute
University of California Berkeley, the University of Illinois and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab join research effort
BP today announced it has selected the University of California Berkeley and its partners the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to join in a $500 million research program that will explore how bioscience can be used to increase energy production and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.
The Energy Biosciences Institute will perform ground-breaking research aimed at the production of new and cleaner energy, initially focusing on renewable biofuels for road transport. The EBI will also pursue bioscience-based research in three other key areas; the conversion of heavy hydrocarbons to clean fuels, improved recovery from existing oil and gas reservoirs, and carbon sequestration.
“The proposal from UC Berkeley and its partners was selected in large part because these institutions have excellent track records of delivering ‘Big Science’ – large and complex developments predicated on both scientific breakthroughs and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world,” said BP Group Chief Executive John Browne. “This program will further both basic and applied biological research relevant to energy. In short, it will create the discipline of Energy Biosciences. The Institute will be unique in both its scale and its partnership between BP, academia and others in the private sector.”
Said U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman. "As we continue to promote alternative energy as a means to strengthen our nation's energy security, it is important that private industry join in support of research to advance President Bush's goal of making clean energy sources, like bioenergy and biofuels, commercially available."
"I can’t tell you how excited I am that BP has chosen UC Berkeley and California for its new $500 Million Energy Biosciences Institute," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I’m proud that the private sector has recognized California’s leadership and commitment to clean energy. This is a perfect complement to our new low-carbon fuel standard which will cut carbon emissions 10 percent from our cars by the year 2020, and with research facilities like the Energy Biosciences Institute, California will continue to be a leader in the Cleantech industry."
technorati BIOblog, BIOconversion, bioenergy, biofuels, ethanol, research, sequestration