The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

USDA makes $136 million in biofuel grants to universities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today in Seattle that USDA has made five major grants totaling $136 million to university researchers to develop aviation biofuels from tall grasses, crop residues and forest resources.

Universities in Washington, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Iowa will lead the projects, but 22 states will eventually be involved. Vilsack made the announcement at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport at an event with leaders from private industry, research institutions, and the biofuels industry.

The research program is expected to take five years. The grants were divided as follows:
  • The University of Washington, $40 million — Using sustainably grown woody energy crops to produce biogasoline and renewable aviation fuel.
  • Washington State University, $40 million — Convert closed timber mills into bioenergy development centers, improve economic potential of rural communities affected by the downturn in timber production. Feedstock development, sustainable forest production, establishing new methods to identify the most promising plant lines for biofuel conversion. Develop a regional source of renewable aviation fuel for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
  • Iowa State University, $25 million — Develop a regional biomass production system for advanced transportation fuels derived from native perennial grasses, such as switchgrass, big bluestem and Indian grass. Study potential benefits of planting grasses with legumes to provide nutrients to land unsuitable for row crop production – adding value to marginal lands while reducing nitrogen runoff into waterways and increasing carbon sequestration. Evaluate a co-product — bio-char — as a soil amendment to increase carbon sequestration.
  • Louisiana State University, $17.2 million — Enable the regular production of biomass for economically viable conversion using existing refinery infrastructure. Use energy cane and sorghum to help reinvigorate the Louisiana sugar and chemical industries.
  • The University of Tennessee, $15 million — Develop sustainable feedstock production systems (switchgrass and woody biomass) that will produce low-cost, easily converted sugars for biochemical conversion to butanol, lignin byproducts and forest and mill residues, and dedicated energy crop feedstocks to produce diesel, heat and power.