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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI's alternative energy research receives $1.5 Million federal boost

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

KINGSTON, RI August 13, 2008 -- In an effort to help reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, and grow the economy, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) joined leading scientists and officials from the University of Rhode Island to announce a $1.476 million appropriation he secured to help URI's Plant Biotechnology Laboratory develop renewable energy technologies and improve consumer access to alternative fuels.

At the construction site of the new Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences on the Kingston Campus, Reed discussed how this federal funding would help the lab continue its pioneering research on the genetic traits of switchgrass, which could increase the amount of fuel produced from renewable resources. College of the Environment and Life Sciences Dean Jeffrey Seemann, Associate Dean and Principal Investigator Richard Rhodes and Lead Researcher Albert Kausch joined him for the event.

"Today's high energy costs are a burden on Rhode Island's families, businesses, and our economy. They are a harbinger of a growing economic, political, and environmental crisis that must be addressed. As the demand for energy grows across the globe, it is imperative that the United States develop new, renewable sources of energy that can be produced here at home. I am proud that URI is at the forefront of this critical effort to help America become more energy independent. The nearly $1.5 million in federal funding will help ensure that URI has the resources needed to advance cutting edge research for biofuel development. I commend Dr. Jeffrey Seemann, Dr. Richard Rhodes, and Dr. Albert Kausch for their leadership and commitment to developing alternative energy sources," said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Converting native grasses into renewable biofuel could help offset America's dependence on foreign oil, which makes up about 60% of our consumption; scale back carbon emissions; eliminate U.S. reliance on corn and other food crops as a source of energy; and grow the economy.

"The cutting-edge biotechnology that underpins this research to help solve the nation's energy challenges will be carried out in our new Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, a state-of-the-art research and education building that is the icon for Rhode Island's new 21st century innovation economy," said Seemann. "Senator Reed has been instrumental in bringing federal funds to URI to support life sciences research that is critical to the health, safety and financial well-being of Rhode Islanders."

Throughout his career, Reed has supported funding for biological and environmental science research at URI. Since 2002, Reed has secured $2.796 million for URI's Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences.

"We are grateful for Senator Reed's assistance. This commitment will enable our researchers and our university to be players on the global energy stage," said Rhodes.


Shown above, URI lead researcher and Professor Albert Kausch discusses alternative fuels with Sen. Jack Reed, College of the Environment and Life Sciences Dean Jeffrey Seemann, and Associate Dean Richard Rhodes.