Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack led a business roundtable meeting and discussed the growing role American-produced biofuels is playing in the civilian aircraft and airline industry, and in the military. The roundtable was held at Chicago-based Boeing Corporation and attended by representatives of United Continental Holdings and Honeywell.
"Advanced biofuels provide landowners, businesses and communities throughout the country the opportunity to pursue new energy advancements that create jobs and build a stronger economy," said Vilsack. "By working with the commercial airline industry, USDA is supporting new markets for these fuels and encouraging further research and innovations that will help reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and lay a solid foundation for a strong rural economy.”
During the roundtable, Vilsack noted that the Obama administration has made great progress in assisting in the development of the biofuels industry. He also noted that the biofuels industry continues to evolve and that there is a concerted effort to develop second and third generation advanced renewable fuels. Title IX of the 2008 farm bill initiated programs that included financial and technical support to expand production and use of biofuels, which USDA is leveraging to support the developing industry.
Vilsack said that the United States is particularly well positioned to now transition to a broader bioeconomy, which includes production of aviation fuel in commercial quantities, and that the American farmer has logged substantial productivity gains over time to meet growing demands for food and fiber and now biomass. He also said that a robust rural economy will result by implementing the Obama Administration’s vision for renewable fuel development which creates sustainable jobs by combining new markets, new technologies and better use of available natural resources. Vilsack highlighted significant efforts the Obama Administration has initiated, including:
- USDA has forged partnerships with the FAA and the aviation industry to promote aviation biofuels and has invested more than $80 million in research focused on developing aviation biofuels. This year, two commercial airlines flew their first domestic flights powered by biofuels.
- USDA entered a partnership the Department of Energy and U.S. Navy to invest up to $510 million during the next three years to produce advanced, drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation.
- Last month USDA and the Navy announced that the Defense Logistics Agency had signed a contract to purchase 450,000 gallons of advanced drop-in biofuel, the single largest purchase of biofuel in government history;
- USDA is investing in research through a grant to the University of Washington, which received $40 million to focus on using sustainably grown woody energy crops to produce biogasoline and renewable aviation fuel.
- USDA provided a $40 million research grant to Washington State University to convert closed timber mills into bioenergy development centers. The project aims to develop a regional source of renewable aviation fuel for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
- USDA has invested a New Mexico facility in to produce "green crude" oil from algae which can be refined into transportation fuel. USDA is also supporting efforts to build 5 biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels in states from Florida and Michigan to New Mexico, with investments worth about $310 million.
- To encourage the production of advanced biofuels from non-food sources, USDA made payments to 235 companies already producing biofuels from non-corn feedstocks in 42 states.
- To encourage feedstock production for renewable energy, USDA established a program to incentivize hundreds of growers and landowners farming nearly 50,000 acres to provide biomass to energy conversion facilities.