California Wants to Lead the Nation in New Energy

By Yvonne Sweeney

A state where it is next to impossible to find alternative fuel service stations is now planning to get into the search for alternative fuels in a big way –- thanks to an oil company. The only multi-fuel station in Southern California is in San Diego, but it is 400 miles north at the University of California in Berkeley where the search will be taking off.

BP Oil Is handing out $500 million dollars to fund the Energy Biosciences Institute in Berkeley –a move California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger calls “great news for California” and “great news for America.”

Scientists from Cal will team will researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to look for renewable fuels and clean energy.

The Illinois campus is a leader in crop biology.

Robert Malone, the chairman and president of BP America, called the partnership groundbreaking and added; “We believe the effort will have an immense positive impact on our world.”

Schwarzenegger, who has pledged to reduce greenhouse gases, had lobbied for the institute, even proposing the state contribute money to build the institute.

The University of California, also, had been searching for a bigger role to play in the growing field of alternative fuels. UC Professor Dan Kammen told the San Francisco Chronicle that the university has more energy experts than any other academic center in the world. Kammen heads Cal’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory.

“I happen to think we have the best group of researchers,” he told the newspaper, “the group is growing. There are people being recruited here because of the other projects.”

British Petroleum selected Berkeley over other major research institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom. A spokesman for the governor says the state’s recent efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions helped seal the deal.

The grant will allow the university to expand collaboration between departments on campus and at the lab to research clean fuels with the goal of finding a replacement for petroleum as the country’s basic transportation fuel.

Another focus of research will be biofuels which are expected to become a major part of the U.S. economy.

All of this is part of a global effort that is now converging at Berkeley.