Experts from around the world will review technical achievements, new initiatives, and environmental issues surrounding the use of biomass for fuels, power, and products at the Fourth Biomass Conference of the Americas Aug. 29 through Sept. 2 in Oakland. Biomass refers to organic matter that can be converted to fuel. The focus of the conference will be the assessment of biomass as a leading energy source in the next century. Several conference sessions will focus on new initiatives from the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) and Congress that could boost the role of biomass in domestic energy supplies and rural development. The vision of DOE's initiative -- Growing Energy to Power America -- is to spur the growth of a domestic biomass industry to produce power, fuels, and chemicals from crops, trees, and waste. One goal is to make a "ton of biomass" compete with a barrel of imported oil. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has introduced the National Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals Act, which would supply nearly $300 million over six years for bioenergy research and development. In California several major commercial biomass and bioenergy demonstration projects are supported by the California Energy Commission and will be visited by conference delegates. The conference, which is being held at the Oakland Marriott City Center, is being organized by the DOE, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the California Energy Commission, and Natural Resources Canada.