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Hearing Of The Subcommittee On Energy And Environment Of The House Committee On Science And Technology - Biomass For Thermal Energy And Electricity Through A Research And Development Portfolio For The Future


Location: Washington, DC

In today's hearing we will examine a number of different technologies utilized to convert biomass feedstocks into biopower, and discuss the federal role in the development of these technologies.

While more widely known as a feedstock for liquid transportation fuels, biomass can also be used to generate heat and electricity -- a field otherwise known as "Biopower".

Biomass includes any organic matter that is available on a renewable basis, including agricultural crops, agricultural wastes and residues, wood and wood wastes and residues, animal wastes, municipal wastes, and aquatic organisms.

Biomass feedstocks are vital as the country moves toward a more diverse portfolio of energy sources, especially in the Southeast and Northwest of the country where there are significant quantities of these renewable resources.

For example, a 2005 report published by the Washington State Department of Ecology and Washington State University found that my state has the potential for annual production of over 1,769 MW of electrical power from biomass. This equates to roughly 50 percent of Washington State′s annual residential electrical consumption.

Furthermore, in my district we have abundant amounts of forest biomass. When this resource is harvested in conjunction with a sustainable forest management plan important restoration goals can be achieved, such as wildfire mitigation, watershed protection, wildlife habitat restoration and reduced insect infestation.

To realize these benefits new research needs to be funded. Enhanced basic and applied research and commercialization of a diversity of conversion technologies needs to be advanced.

In 2002 the Bush Administration consolidated liquid transportation fuels, bioproducts, and biopower research efforts across DOE into the Biomass Program, and since then the large majority of the research has focused on liquid transportation fuels, mostly ethanol.

However, given the decreasing availability of fossil fuel resources and simultaneous increases in demand, along with concerns over lethal overheating of the earth and ocean acidification, a responsible 21st century energy portfolio will include a renewed commitment to biopower technologies.

While the development of liquid transportation fuels from biomass is a critical research area, I am interested in hearing from our witnesses about increasing biopower research efforts in the Federal research portfolio, and the steps we need to take to overcome barriers to new biopower technologies.

With that I'd like to thank this excellent panel of witnesses for appearing before the Subcommittee this afternoon, and I yield to our distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Inglis.

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