4 Minutes With..Valerie Reed, Deputy Directory, Bioenergy Technology Office, Department of Energy

September 25, 2014 |

reedShe’s officially listed as Deputy Director of the Bioenergy Technology Office at DOE — but I count at least two terms as interim director, and totaling I believe over a year in that post. Sometimes in that job, you get the joy of seeing a technology break through at scale. Some days, you probably feel like a flak-catcher.

Valerie’s seen the entire wave of technologies come through — from the earliest days of cellulose’s, when that was “always five years away”, to the rebirth of algae-based R&D, to the new focus on advanced drop-in hydrocarbons and renewable chemicals, too. There are just countless companies that have depended on DOE support in the early days — so, can’t think of too many people who would have more insight on the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Tell us about your organization and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

BETO is focused on forming cost-share partnerships with key stakeholders to sustainably develop, demonstrate, and deploy technologies for advanced biofuels production from lignocellulosic and algal biomass. Our goal is to reduce the risk and accelerate the development of a US bioeconomy that will lead to US jobs.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

As Deputy Director I am focused on integration of the various aspects of the supply chain and advancing technologies within each of these areas to result in cost competitive biofuels between now and 2022. The Renewable Fuels Standard has set ambitious goals for the deployment of volumes of biofuels that requires careful attention to technology readiness, environmental concerns and scale up issues.

To succeed, the industry needs successes and most of my time is spent working with the technical teams within the program to ensure that risks are understood and strategies implemented to increase the likelihood of success in first of a kind technology deployment. In addition, I spend a good deal of time being a liason to the decision makers who provide the resources to enable the program to move forward.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

Technology is advancing very quickly. I could snap my fingers, I would secure investors willing to take the risk with their investment dollars, the way American’s have done with each big economic development within this country. This is the next big energy revolution and we need people willing to jump in and make it happen.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?

I have been involved since very early on in the development of technologies to displace petroelum for reasons of energy security, environment and US economics. Driven by successes in the laboratory and at engineering scale, I continue to be compelled to see the birth of this industry through to completion.

Where are you from? 

I was born and raised mostly in central Pennsylvania, farm and coal country. I lived very near a town that was devastated by coal mining and to this day fires burn deep within the ground there illustrating the need to understand the consequences of our actions when it comes to the earth’s resources.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

I attended Penn State University and studied Chemistry, then came to Georgetown for advanced studies in Biochemistry. Life in the lab was fine, but I was more motivated interacting with people trying to make a difference with science in an applied way and that lead me to working at the Department of Energy.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

Keeping focused on the mission and goals I have set for myself both personally and professionally helps me to overcome adversity. It is easy to get discouraged when it often feels like the mountain is just to high to climb or the barriers in your way seem insurmountable. But dealing with these things one day and one step at a time leads to a sense of accomplishment especially when you look back and see just how far you have come.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

Raising my three children along with my husband is a full time job that keeps us both busy outside of work.

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island?

It would take a desert island with no blackberry access to give me time to read 1 book, let alone 3. I would take a Bible, and then two medical mystery suspense type books, because I enjoy the science references in an otherwise fictional story.

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Category: Million Minds

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