The Energy Biosciences Institute
(EBI), formally announced on February 1, 2007, is an organization that will pursue research "to develop new sources of energy and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment." Funded primarily by BP
BP p.l.c. is a global oil and gas company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the third-largest energy company and fourth-largest company in the world measured by revenues and one of the six oil and gas "supermajors"...
, which has signed a contract to contribute 500 million dollar
The dollar is the name of the official currency of many countries, including Australia, Belize, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States.-Etymology:...
s over ten years, the Institute is a joint initiative between the University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...
(UCB), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory , is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory conducting unclassified scientific research. It is located on the grounds of the University of California, Berkeley, in the Berkeley Hills above the central campus...
, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...
. Eighty percent of the award is slated for research at the Berkeley
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...
site, where a new 'Helios' building (scheduled to open in 2010) is proposed to be built for the Institute, though citizens, students and staff have expressed strong opposition to the building (which would house 50 BP scientists), and plans have been delayed. Governor Schwarzenegger pushed the California state government to subsidize the building with $50 million. The remaining 100 million dollars is to be spent in Champaign
Champaign is a city in Champaign County, Illinois, in the United States. The city is located south of Chicago, west of Indianapolis, Indiana, and 178 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. Though surrounded by farm communities, Champaign is notable for sharing the campus of the University of...
, primarily on investigating energy crop
An energy crop is a plant grown as a low cost and low maintenance harvest used to make biofuels, or combusted for its energy content to generate electricity or heat. Energy crops are generally categorized as woody or herbaceous ....
s for biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...
s feedstocks. It is one of the largest joint initiatives between a private corporation and a public university in history.
The EBI has come under intense scrutiny, partly from the StopBP-Berkeley campaign, along several lines: concern about biofuels, concern about the influence of large private corporations on public universities, and concern about the influence and motives of oil companies in particular on public research.
The EBI comes on the heels of another controversial agreement involving a $25 million grant by then Novartis to the Berkeley College of Natural Resources.
Critics have pointed to the negative impacts on food prices, livelihoods, and the environment of first-generation biofuels.
Concerns about improper process led to a special hearing of the UC Berkeley academic senate.
Relations of the EBI with nanotechnology are not yet clear. Part of the justification of locating the Helios building next to the Molecular Foundry was to take advantage of synergies.
The impacts of possible new technologies produced by the EBI were excluded from consideration in the environmental impact report. The EBI hopes to genetically engineer bacteria that will be able to breakdown lignin, which is the basic structure of the cell wall that supports woody plant structures. The EBI also has as a central plank of their research program the objective of using bioengineering to increase the recovery of fossil fuels from existing mines and wells.