The nation’s third-largest oil company plans to send Iowa State University $22 million over the next eight years to bankroll biofuels research. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s wife, Ruth, serves on the ConocoPhillips board of directors. She’s also a member of the Board of Regents — the nine-member panel that governs ISU, and Harkin today told reporters she lobbied hard for this grant. 

"I believe that public/private partnerships are essential to the growth of Iowa’s economy," Harkin said at a news conference in Ames. ConocoPhillips executive Ryan Lance says the company chose Iowa State because its faculty has great expertise in biofuels. "We’ve looked around the world at universities and decided to partner here and create our anchor program with Iowa State," Lance says. "…We think Iowa State’s ahead of the game."

ISU president Gregory Geoffrey says contributing to the development of the bioeconomy is in line with the university’s mission. "The potential is huge. Biofuels is an enormous area," Geoffrey says. "We would hope there would be breakthroughs. Breakthroughs afford enormous opportunity."

ConocoPhillips was formed in 2002 when Conoco and Phillips Petroleum merged. The company’s based in Houston, Texas.