DOE Launches Cool New Decarbonization Effort

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recently introduced the Clean Fuels & Products Shot, an initiative focused on substantially decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) originating from carbon-based fuels and products essential to daily life. As the seventh DOE Energy Earthshot, this project aims to lower carbon emissions from the fuel and chemical industry by utilizing more environmentally friendly carbon sources, targeting a minimum reduction of 85% in GHG emissions compared to fossil-based sources by 2035.

The Clean Fuels & Products Shot contributes to the nationwide objective of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 through the development of sustainable feedstocks and conversion technologies needed to create vital fuels, materials, and carbon-based products with reduced environmental impact. The initiative seeks to fulfill 2050 net-zero emission requirements for 100% of aviation fuel; 50% of maritime, rail, and off-road fuel; and 50% of carbon-based chemicals by employing sustainable carbon resources.

“DOE is invested in decarbonizing the transportation and chemical industries by accelerating technologies necessary to reduce emissions from the manufacturing of fuels and chemicals,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This Energy Earthshot will advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to diversify the domestic supply chain with cost-competitive, clean fuels and products for daily use and establish the U.S. as a world leader in clean fuel and clean carbon-based chemical production.”

At the same event where the Secretary announced the Clean Fuels & Products Shot initiative at Idaho National Laboratory, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the Biofuels National User Facility. This facility has undergone a $15 million upgrade over three years, financed by the DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, and plays a crucial role in achieving the objectives of the Clean Fuels & Products Shot.

The upgraded, cutting-edge facility is designed to address key biofuel production challenges, such as feeding, handling, and preprocessing various biomass and waste materials. The facility’s use by the industry will facilitate rapid technology advancement and extensive commercialization of biofuels and bioproducts, aligning with the Administration’s objectives concerning clean fuels and products.

Per the DOE, the Clean Fuels & Products Shot has the potential to remove over 650 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalent annually by 2050. This substantial reduction in the U.S. carbon footprint positions the United States as a worldwide frontrunner in clean fuel and chemical production. Additionally, it generates employment opportunities and strengthens energy security by developing resilient and diverse supply chains for fuels and products.

The DOE Earthshots program is a collection of ambitious initiatives launched by the U.S. Department of Energy to expedite breakthroughs in clean energy technology and drive significant progress towards a sustainable, decarbonized future. The program’s overarching goal is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and address major challenges associated with climate change and energy security.

Part of a Wider Effort With History Behind It

The Earthshots program focuses on specific, high-impact targets that can be reached within a set timeframe. Each “shot” represents a concentrated effort to develop and deploy innovative solutions in a particular sector of the energy industry. By leveraging advancements in research, development, and commercialization, the program aims to provide cleaner, more affordable, and accessible energy options for all communities.

Some of the key initiatives within the DOE Earthshots program include:

  1. Hydrogen Shot™ – Aims to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen production to $1 per kilogram within a decade.
  2. Carbon Negative Shot™ – Focuses on developing scalable carbon dioxide removal technologies to help achieve negative emissions.
  3. Industrial Heat Shot™ – Seeks to create innovative solutions for generating low-cost, low-emission industrial heat.
  4. Clean Fuels & Products Shot™ – Targets an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from carbon-based fuels and products by 2035.

These initiatives are supported by various DOE offices, such as the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy. Together, they work collaboratively to ensure that the benefits of the clean energy economy reach all U.S. communities, promote job creation, and establish the United States as a global leader in clean energy innovation.

The concept of “Earthshots” is inspired by the ambitious “Moonshot” projects of the 1960s, which were centered around the United States’ efforts to send astronauts to the moon. President John F. Kennedy’s famous 1961 speech set the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. This monumental challenge sparked a surge of innovation, collaboration, and investment in the fields of science, technology, and engineering, ultimately leading to the successful Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

The Earthshots program aims to replicate the spirit of the Moonshot projects by setting similarly ambitious goals for addressing urgent global challenges, particularly in the realm of clean energy and climate change. The term “Earthshots” signifies a series of targeted, time-bound initiatives designed to drive breakthroughs in critical clean energy technologies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and move toward a sustainable, decarbonized future.

By invoking the historical success of the Moonshot projects, the DOE Earthshots program seeks to inspire a new era of innovation, collaboration, and progress in tackling pressing environmental and energy-related issues. The program encourages researchers, industries, and governments to work together and develop cutting-edge solutions that can significantly accelerate the transition to a cleaner, more sustainable world.

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This Concept Has Worked In The Private Sector, Too

The XPRIZE is another initiative that aims to drive innovation and solve global challenges through the power of competition. Founded in 1994 by entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, the XPRIZE Foundation designs and operates large-scale, incentivized prize competitions that encourage collaboration among scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and innovators to develop groundbreaking solutions to pressing problems.

While the DOE Earthshots program focuses on specific, high-impact targets within the clean energy sector and is managed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the XPRIZE Foundation is an independent non-profit organization that addresses a broader range of challenges, including space exploration, healthcare, education, and environmental issues.

The idea of the XPRIZE was inspired by the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 reward offered by French hotelier Raymond Orteig in 1919 for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. The prize was eventually claimed by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, which led to a significant surge in aviation investments and advancements. Similarly, the XPRIZE seeks to stimulate innovation by offering substantial monetary rewards to teams that achieve specific, ambitious goals.

The first XPRIZE, the Ansari XPRIZE, was a $10 million competition for the first privately funded team to build and launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. This prize was awarded in 2004 to the team behind SpaceShipOne, and it played a pivotal role in kick-starting the commercial space industry.

In comparison, both the DOE Earthshots and XPRIZE initiatives aim to spark innovation and address global challenges by setting ambitious goals, but they differ in their scope, management, and focus areas. While the Earthshots program targets clean energy technologies and is overseen by a government agency, the XPRIZE encompasses a wider range of issues and is run by an independent non-profit organization. Both initiatives, however, share the common objective of inspiring progress and fostering collaboration to tackle pressing problems.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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