USDA goes cellulosic

It has been a momentous week for biofuels in the United States, starting with the announcement on Tuesday 27 Sept, by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, that the USDA will pay more than 160 energy producers to support the production of advanced biofuels. Crucially, the funding only supports production from cellulosic and waste feedstocks and will not pay for the production of fuel from corn-starch.

This incentive to industry to embrace a second wave of biofuel technology has been matched by major investment in research. On Wednesday 28th Sept, Tom Vilsack announced funding awards made under the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) programme. More than $136 million will be paid to five next generation fuel projects, over the next five years. One of the largest grants of $40 million was made to the University of Washington to promote biorefining of woody biomass across the supply chain. The same amount was awarded to Washington State University for woody feedstock development. All five projects will support rural regeneration and the use of sustainable cellulosic biomass to produce bioenergy.

The next generation of feedstock and production technologies will need to work to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard target set by the Environmental Protection Agency, under which the United States aim to increase production capacity to 8 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel by 2019.

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