In Washington, The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), the trade association for the algae industry, hailed language included in the energy reform package released last Wednesday by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that would prioritize research and development of carbon utilization technologies under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy program. The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 would add “Improving the conversion, use, and storage of carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels” to the list of DOE Fossil Energy R&D objectives.
Carbon utilization technologies, such as algae cultivation, can transform carbon dioxide emissions into valuable products, simultaneously reducing harmful greenhouse gases and providing economic benefits. A number of algae companies across the country are working to commercialize new technology advances that convert concentrated sources of CO2 to renewable fuels, chemicals, fertilizer, plastics and feed ingredients, as well as high-value products such as Omega-3 nutritional supplements, powerful antioxidants, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
The language in the bill comes as carbon utilization technologies have attracted increased attention among policy makers. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced similar language in legislation proposed in May, which was followed in the House by votes for an Energy and Water Appropriations bill which included $2 million for carbon utilization R&D at the Fossil Energy office, and a vote in the Senate Energy and Water Full Committee for $10 million for carbon utilization.
In June Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced climate legislation that calls out carbon capture and utilization as an accepted method for power plants and other industries to achieve CO2 reductions. Later in the month language that encourages the EPA to implement policies which encourage the utilization of carbon dioxide was included in pending Interior Appropriations legislation.
“We thank the Committee for acknowledging the growing importance of carbon utilization technologies in addressing our nation’s energy future and economic health,” said Matt Carr, executive director of the Algae Biomass Organization. “Innovators across the country are developing processes that can transform carbon dioxide into valuable products that range from plastics to fuels, and from feeds to fertilizers. This prioritization will hasten the day the algae industry can create thousands of jobs by using the waste gases from power plants to make valuable products we need, while giving those power plants a chance to reduce their emission for a profit rather than at a cost.”