While the process of producing biofuel from feedstock is relatively straightforward, the process of developing efficient organisms to use as feedstock is not. Jatropha, Camelina, Corn, Sugarcane, Algae, and a number of other living organisms are all under consideration for potential use in producing biofuels. Producing viable feedstock from these organisms requires a great deal of expertise in chemistry and biology, with an increasing emphasis on genetic engineering. The money required to develop superior biofuel feedstock is often massive in quantity, but the potential benefits of biofuels are too great to ignore. To that end, a number of national governments and government collaborations have put their considerable resources into research and development of biofuels.
The U.S. has a vested interest in biofuel development because the country is the largest single consumer of energy. Relying on foreign nations for fuel supplies is a serious security threat. The U.S. has a great deal of arable land, though not enough to produce all the biofuel to meet its needs. To create better, more efficient biofuel feedstock, the U.S. has tasked several national agencies with research and development.
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) - The major research arm of the U.S. government that deals with the science of energy. NREL oversees several national laboratories and controls hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funding for biofuel research.
- Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NFESC) - NFESC is the research hub for the U.S. military. While they coordinate with NREL, their goals are slightly different. The focus of NFESC is to test and development biofuels suitable for military use.
Europe tends to perform its research in a collaborative manner, with several countries working together toward a common end. Their focus also tends to be turned more toward environmental considerations, so their main impetus for producing biofuels is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The major research institutes are as follows.
- The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) - The IEEP is mainly a policy research institution. The main goal is to provide guiding principles for the governments of Europe to ensure consistent policy, fair trade, and ecologically sound research and development.
- Individual Governments - Through the oversight of the IEEP, individual European governments work to develop biofuel industries that are beneficial to their countries, but which also fit into the larger scheme for the continent.
Russia is one of the largest suppliers of oil in the world and still has large proven reserves. This county’s interest in biofuels stems from the fact that it would like to maintain its leadership in fuel supply and delivery as the industry changes. To that end, the Russian government has tasked the Russian Academy of Sciences with developing biofuel crops that can add substantially to its fuel export industry.
Australia, like Europe, has a strong environmental focus. The recently establish Australian Biofuels Research Institute has been created to develop environmentally friendly fuels from algae as well as biofuels that are chemically identical to fossil fuels. The U.S. Navy has taken a keen interest in the latter project.