St. Louis BioBelt Leads Charge in Biofuels
Area Development Research Desk (Biotech Location Guide 2007)

Biofuels are hailed as the most likely, immediate way to close the energy gap resulting from increased demand and shrinking supply. Biofuels are great for America, thanks to the volume of feedstocks - traditional and emerging - that are grown in the nation's breadbasket.

Greater St. Louis is positioned for long-term leadership in biofuels, thanks to its access to multi-modal transportation, proximity to plentiful Midwestern-grown feedstocks, central location within the U.S., and concentration of top-tier public and private organizations.

Here are some developments from the St. Louis BioBelt.

• The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville sets USDA biomass baselines:
NCERC is at the nexus of the U.S. government's challenge to produce alternative fuels with an equivalent annual capacity of 36 billion gallons of gas by 2017. The center sets and communicates experimental research benchmarks for the industry. Says John Caupert, director of NCERC, "We're happy that for the third consecutive year, NCERC is named the provider of USDA baseline data. [These baselines] are used by government, industry, academia, and trade associations as benchmarks for future technology."

• Abgenoa Bioenergy gets grant to put residual waste to productive use: St. Louis-based Abgenoa Bioenergy was granted to up to $76 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to design, construct, and operate the first commercial facility to produce ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass. That means using agricultural residue such as corn stover, wheat and rice straw, and forestry residue; pulp and paper production residue; and high-cellulose content plants such as switchgrass. An ideal example of conservation, this process uses feedstocks that might otherwise be discarded.

• The Center for Evergreen Energy (CE2) serves as Greater St. Louis' R&D "traffic cop":
It's not unusual to see duplicative R&D efforts in emerging sciences. CE2 approaches the challenge in a new way. Collaboration among CE2 stakeholders will make it the first national clearinghouse for biofuel information. What's learned in one institution funnels through CE2 to the wide array of stakeholder organizations. The center focuses the industry on critical unmet market needs; collaborative - rather than competitive - discovery; and common priorities that ensure the pace of commercialization is rapid and rewarding. CE2 provides unbiased, solution-neutral, interactive, and ongoing analysis of biofuels research.

• Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute at St. Louis' Donald Danforth Plant Science Center addresses conflicting priorities: Renewable crops for biofuels come with their own disadvantage. Dr. Roger Beachy, president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, explains that "the issue of growing plants to provide a source of food, while at the same time meeting our increasing demand for renewable energy, is of greater concern each day. The new $25 million commitment from Susan and Jack Taylor (of Enterprise) will advance our efforts to unlock novel scientific ideas which could ultimately lead to renewable biofuels that are plentiful and cost-effective." The immediate goal is to increase crop yield from 150 to 300 bushels per acre by improving disease resistance, drought tolerance and other traits.

For additional information on the broad spectrum of plant and medical science activities taking place in the St. Louis BioBelt, log onto the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association's website.

Erika Kennett, Project Manager - Business Development
St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association
One Metropolitan Square
St. Louis, MO 63102
Tel: 314-444-1136