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DOE JGI Director Eddy Rubin highlights the genomics of plant-based biofuels in the journal Nature
Date:8/13/2008

WALNUT CREEK, CAGenomics is accelerating improvements for converting plant biomass into biofuelas an alternative to fossil fuel for the nation's transportation needs, reports Eddy Rubin, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), in the August 14 edition of the journal Nature. In "Genomics of cellulosic biofuels," Rubin lays out a path forward for how emerging genomic technologies will contribute to a substantially different biofuels future as compared to the present corn-based ethanol industryand in part mitigate the food-versus-fuel debate. The Nature Review is available for download (by subscription) at http://www.nature.com/.

"The Apollo moon shot and the Human Genome Project rallied support for massive R&D efforts that created the capabilities to overcome obstacles that were not contemplated at the outset of these initiatives," says Rubin. "Similarly, today's barriers to improving biofuels are significant, but genetics and genomics can catalyze progress towards delivering, in the not-too-distant future, economically-viable and more socially acceptable biofuels based on lignocellulose."

While Rubin acknowledges that this strategy is in its infancy, rapid progress is being made.

"Over the past 10,000 years, wild plant species were selected for their desirable traits resulting in today's highly productive food crops. We simply don't have thousands of years in the face of the energy and climate challenges, so by applying the power of genomics to these problems, we are seeking to speed up the domestication of energy crops and the technologies for converting them to suitable biofuels as a more carbon-neutral approach to meeting part of our transportation needs."

In the Nature Review, Rubin describes the processes entailed in biofuel production from lignocellulose: the harvesting of biomass, pretreatment and saccharification, which results in t
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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