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On October 16, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a $10 million grant for universities to research and develop alternative biofuels, a project that should create thousands of environmental jobs, and go a long way toward getting the country to its renewable portfolio standard goal of 36 billion gallons of biofuel for transportation by 2022.
The grant comes from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which is part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Penn State will be the chief recipient of the funds, but will also be charged with doling them out to seven other universities, including Delaware State. The schools will be working hand-in-hand with private institutions to develop alternative fuels to corn-based ethanol.
Some of the big contenders include fuels made of willow, switchgrass and miscanthus. One of the goals of the research is to lower production costs by 20 percent, while raising biofuel feedstock yields by 25 percent. It’s also hoped that the new fuel technology will create environmental jobs, and reduce the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels.
The new biofuels will be geared toward transportation. Researchers are not only thinking of the average auto, but also of marine and aviation technology. According to Mr. Vilsack, the Navy is particularly interested in using alternative biofuels to power its fleet.
As for planting grounds for the biofuel feedstock, Mr. Vilsack suggested land that’s been strip-mined in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as well as land in marginal floodplains.
The biofuel industry supports some 400,000 U.S. environmental jobs, both directly and indirectly. That number is expected to increase to about one million environmental jobs in the future, as the U.S. works toward its RPS.
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