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MSU to join UW-Madison in bioenergy research


Michigan State University will receive $50 million in federal grants over five years to conduct basic research on biofuels, officials said Monday.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is expected to announce Tuesday that Michigan State and other universities have been selected to share $375 million in federal funding to develop new bioenergy centers for research on cellulosic ethanol and biomass plants.

The Bush administration has touted the research centers as part of its overall strategy to improve the nation’s energy security and reduce its dependence on foreign oil by developing alternative fuels from sources such as switchgrass and wood chips.

Michigan State and the University of Wisconsin-Madison will share in a $125 million federal grant to establish the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, said two officials with knowledge of the grants, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

The center is expected to be located in Madison, Wis., and Michigan State’s share of the grant would be $50 million, the officials said.

The center will conduct basic research “to design the microbial and plant systems needed to realize the potential of biofuels,” according to an overview of the project that was drafted earlier this year.

Researchers at the center would work to improve the characteristics of biomass plants and the procedures for processing plant biomass, according to the overview. They would also study the biological or chemical processes used to convert biomass into energy products and “the economic and environmental sustainability of the biomass-to-biofuel pipeline.”

Terry Denbow, Michigan State’s vice president for university relations, declined comment. A message was left with a University of Wisconsin spokesman.

Energy Department spokeswoman Megan Barnett said she could not confirm that the universities were receiving the grants. But she said Bodman was anxious to “accelerate basic research in the development of cellulosic ethanol” in hopes of making production costs competitive by 2012.

– Associated Press

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