USDA Announces 6th Regional Biofuels System

Cindy Zimmerman

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced a research grant to develop next generation biofuels in the Northeast.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today awarded Pennsylvania State University a five-year research grant valued at roughly $10 million to develop biomass supply chains for the production of liquid transportation and aviation biofuels in the Northeast. This is the sixth such award made through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), aimed at developing regional, renewable energy markets, generating rural jobs, and decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil. In September 2011, the Secretary announced five major AFRI grants for the formation of five regional systems in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest, Northern states, Southern states, and the Southeast. Today’s announcement underscores USDA’s support for public and private research in building the framework for a competitively-priced, American-made biofuels industry in every major American region.

During a press conference this morning, Vilsack said the goal is to develop alternatives to corn-based ethanol, with each different part of the country focused on different feedstocks and production methods. “This particular project is going to look at miscanthus and switchgrass and willow,” said Vilsack. “It’s possible that we can grow these biomass products on strip mines to restore the land or on marginal flood plane lands.”

Vilsack noted that the project will include support from a number of different educational institutions and companies, including Ernst Conservation Seeds, Case New Holland, Praxair, Inc., Idaho National Lab, Mascoma Biofuels, Primus Green Energy, and Double A Willow. “All of these companies are identifying feedstocks or processing by which these feedstocks can be grown and harvested, so it’s a coordinated effort,” said Vilsack.

Listen to Vilsack’s press conference here: USDA Pennsylvania Biofuels Announcement

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