USDA awards Penn State $10 million grant for biofuels research

October 16, 2012 |

In Pennsylvania, a $10 million federal grant for biofuels research has been awarded to Penn State University by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hopes the grant will develop biomass supply chains for the Northeast, as well as improve rural economies and create jobs through public and private sector partnerships.

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.

“This is the last of six regional systems supported by USDA and the Obama Administration,” said Vilsack in a call with reporters following the announcement. “It completes this phase of effort on regional feedstock development, as part of our overall effort to identify biofuels for aviation, marine and auto helping biorefineries.”

“The creation of this biofuel system will significantly contribute to improving rural prosperity and job creation in the Northeast by funding effective public and private sector partnerships,” Vilsack added.

The grants announced by Vilsack came through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The NEWBio Consortium will focus on the non-food biomass sources of willow, miscanthus and switchgrass, which can be grown on former strip mines and marginal floodplains. Through an integrated research, education and Extension approach, the consortium will address the entire biofuel production spectrum, including crop genetic development, harvesting, storage and processing techniques and sustainable production systems. The biomass research will develop sustainable production practices to improve yield by 25 percent and reduce costs by 20 percent.

By partnering with industry, the research will enable private-sector partners to produce advanced ready-to-use liquid transportation and aviation biofuels. The team aims to provide business support to generate at least 100 supply contracts and support more than 50 new supply chain businesses to harvest, transport and preprocess biomass.

Dr. Thomas Richard at The Pennsylvania State University will lead the team of researchers and staff from the following organizations: Cornell University, Delaware State University, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, West Virginia University, University of Vermont, Drexel University, American Refining Group, Ernst Conservation Seeds, Case New Holland, Praxair, Inc., Idaho National Lab, Mascoma Biofuels, Primus Green Energy, Double A Willow, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Aloterra Energy, Oak Ridge National Lab and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

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