Genetic Mutation Creates Drought Tolerance in Plants

Researchers at Purdue University have discovered a genetic mutation that allows a plant to better endure drought conditions without losing biomass. This discovery could prove significant because it could lead to plants that need less water to survive and thrive despite adverse climatic conditions.

Mike Mickelbart, an assistant professor of horticulture; Mike Hasegawa, a professor of horticulture; and Chal Yul Yoo, a horticulture graduate student, found that a genetic mutation in the research plant Arabidopsis thaliana reduces the number of stomata. Stomata are important because they are pores that take in carbon dioxide and release water. During drought conditions, a plant might close its stomata to conserve water. However, by doing this, the plant also reduces the amount of CO2 it can take in which limits photosynthesis and growth. But in the stomata of the mutated plants, instead of limiting CO2 intake, the gene creates a beneficial equilibrium.

“The plant can only fix so much carbon dioxide. The fewer stomata still allow for the same amount of carbon dioxide intake as a wild type while conserving water,” said Mickelbart, whose results were published in the early online version of the journal The Plant Cell. “This shows there is potential to reduce transpiration without a yield penalty.”

According to a news release, Mickelbart and Yoo used an infrared gas analyzer to determine the amount of CO2 taken in and water lost in the Arabidopsis mutant. CO2 is pumped into a chamber with the plant and the analyzer measures the amount left after a plant has started to take up the gas. A similar process measures water lost through transpiration, in which water is released from a plant’s leaves.

Analysis showed that the plant, which has a mutant form of the gene GTL1, did not reduce CO2 intake but did have a 20 percent reduction in transpiration. The plant had the same biomass as a wild type of Arabidopsis when its shoot dry weight was measured.

“The decrease in transpiration leads to increased drought tolerance in the mutant plants,” Yoo said. “They will hold more water in their leaves during drought stress.”

Of the 20 genes known to control stomata, SDD1, which is a gene responsible for regulating the number of stomata on leaves, was highly expressed in the mutant. Whereas in the mutant, with GTL1 not functioning, SDD1 is highly expressed, which results in the development of fewer stomata.

Mickelbart said the finding is important because it opens the possibility that there is a natural way to improve crop drought tolerance without decreasing biomass or yield. The next step in the research is to determine the role of GTL1 in a crop plant such as corn.

“For the Good of the Land” Co. Gets Biofuels Contract

A company whose name means “for the good of the land” has landed a contract from Hawaiian Electric Company to provide sustainable biofuels for the utility.

This press release says ‘Āina Koa Pono will partner with HEC to help the state reach its clean energy goal of meeting 70 percent of its electricity and ground transportation needs from clean, renewable energy sources by 2030 by building a 13,000 acre energy farm able to produce biofuels in the next two years:

“The time has come to take a bold step toward establishing a self-sustaining energy future for our state and we are excited and honored to be selected by Hawaiian Electric Company to produce biofuels for Hawai‘i,” said Dr. Melvin H. Chiogioji [co-founder of Āina Koa Pono]. “This partnership is critical in helping Hawai‘i reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels and expand our state’s green energy initiative.”

“We are very pleased to award this first contract as a result of our request for proposals for locally grown and processed biofuels to be used in our power plants on Hawaii Island, Oahu and in Maui County,” said Hawaiian Electric Executive Vice President Robbie Alm. “We look forward to a long and productive partnership.”

‘Āina Koa Pono will invest approximately $320 million in the Ka‘ū Energy Farm, to cover the costs of building a cutting-edge processing facility as well as planting and harvesting biofeedstocks including sweet sorghum and eucalyptus. The Ka‘ū Energy Farm will be located on private land under long-term lease agreements with the Olson Trust and the Mallick family.

When completed, the energy farm will produce 16 million gallons of biofuels a year.

Gene Opens Up More Potential Biomass for Biofuels

Researchers in Oklahoma have discovered the gene responsible for how dense of material a plant grows, and that discovery could open the door to more biomass for biofuels grown in the same amount of land.

This press release from the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation says making denser plants allows farmers to increase the amount of biomass without increasing their agricultural footprint:

“This is a significant breakthrough for those developing improved plants to address pressing societal needs,” said Richard Dixon, D. Phil., director of the Noble Foundation’s Plant Biology Division. “This discovery opens up new possibilities for harnessing and increasing the potential of crops by expanding their ranges of use. These plants will be part of the next generation of agriculture which not only impacts food, but many other vital industries as well.”

Huanzhong Wang, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dixon’s lab, found a gene that controls the production of lignin in the central portions of the stems of Arabidopsis and Medicago truncatula, species commonly used as models for the study of plant genetic processes. Lignin is a compound that helps provide strength to plant cell walls, basically giving the plant the ability to stand upright. When the newly discovered gene is removed, there is a dramatic increase in the production of biomass, including lignin, throughout the stem.

Research targeting plants that are grazed by animals has historically focused on reducing lignin production within the plant. However, increasing lignin in non-food crops, such as switchgrass, may be desirable for increasing the density of the biomass and producing more feedstock per plant and, therefore, more per acre.

“In switchgrass, as the plant matures, the stem becomes hollow like bamboo,” Dixon said. “Imagine if you use this discovery to fill that hollow portion with lignin. The potential increase in biomass in these new plants could be dramatic. This technology could make plants better suited to serve as renewable energy sources or as renewable feedstocks to produce advanced composite materials that consumers depend on every day.”

Research with the University of Georgia has also shown that removing that gene can increase the cellulosic ethanol and butanol potentials of a plant. Officials say the overall discovery is a significant breakthrough that will help redefine the research.

Will Biogenic Emission Regulation Curb Biomass Growth?

According to the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), the inclusion of biomass emissions (biogenic carbon emissions) in the EPA’s Clean Air Act greenhouse gas permitting program hinders growth of renewable energy. However, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is countering their argument saying that there is public data on investments in biomass showing that it is in fact growing. The irony is that both groups cite the same study from Forisk Consulting to support their claims although the study was in fact funded by NAFO.

In December 2010, Forisk Consulting released a study titled, “Economic and Regional Impact Analysis of the Treatment of Biomass Energy Under the EPA Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule.” According to NAFO, the study found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule’s current treatment of biomass energy emissions will put over 130 renewable energy projects “at risk” for cancellation or delays.

“The Tailoring Rule is a powerful deterrent to forest biomass energy investments and job opportunities,” NAFO President and CEO David P. Tenny said of the study’s findings. “We’re already seeing the economic impact of the Tailoring Rule, as renewable energy projects are delayed or stopped altogether due to regulatory uncertainty. Left unchanged, the Tailoring Rule threatens the long-term viability of the biomass energy sector which, in turn, undermines the renewable energy goals of the Administration and Congress.”

Back in September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was considering equating biogenic carbon emissions with fossil fuel emissions under the Tailoring Rule, which requires the accounting and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). Biogenic carbon emissions are those that are naturally created during the combustion and decay of woody biomass. In the past, the EPA has always considered them carbon neutral.

However, according to EDF calculations, existing and announced wood bioenergy projects increased during the past year by nearly 35 percent–from 112 projects to 151 projects–across 11 southern states alone: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. (Only data from the southern U.S. is publicly available for the past year). According the report, the total expected demand for wood biomass increased by 10 million green tons, a 76 percent hike in wood biomass demand across the region.

“The science clearly shows that not all sources of biomass are equal in terms of their climate change impacts,” said Will McDow, manager of EDF’s Southeast Center for Conservation Incentives, and a member of both the North Carolina Forestry Technical Advisory Committee and Forestry Council. “The industry has known that EPA was planning to include biogenic emissions in permitting requirements in some way since last spring, yet this fact clearly has not dampened investors’ enthusiasm for bioenergy in 2010.”

McDow concluded, “The stakes are too high for EPA to rush to judgment in making biomass emission rules because these biomass plants will produce greenhouse gas emissions for 20 to 30 years. EPA needs to take the time to get the accounting right for biomass emissions to spur the right investments and policies our nation needs to protect forest sector jobs and the natural resources we depend upon.”

Investments in G-20 Clean Power Projects Could Top $2.3 Trillion

Private funds have been difficult to secure in the U.S. for clean energy programs for the past year; however, on a global scale, private investments in G-20 clean power projects could total more than $2.3 trillion by the end of this decade alone. This figure was released as part of a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts this month: Global Clean Power: A $2.3 Trillion Opportunity. The majority of investments will be made in Asia, led by China and India, as driven by massive energy demand and strong clean energy policies. However, the report continues, by countries adopting such policies, every G-20 member has an opportunity to attract more private funds in clean power projects and compete more effectively for business.

The report examined projected private investment in wind, solar, biomass/energy from waste, small hydro, geothermal and marine energy projects. To predict the levels of private investments into projects, the report modeled three policy scenarios to determine future growth through 2020:

  • * Business-as-usual – no change from current policies: total investment projected to be $1.7 trillion by 2020
  • * Copenhagen – policies to implement the pledges made at the 2009 international climate negotiations in Copenhagen: total investment projected to be $1.8 trillion
  • * Enhanced clean energy – maximized policies designed to stimulate increased investment and capacity additions – total investment projected to be $2.3 trillion

“The message of this report is clear: countries that want to maximize private investments, spur job creation, invigorate manufacturing and seize export opportunities should strengthen their clean energy policies,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Climate and Energy program.

The report found that the clean energy sector continues to be an immense economic opportunity and Asia became the top regional destination for clean power finance in 2010. Within the region, China and India are leading the way (in all energy demand, not just clean energy demand) and by 2020, the report anticipates that 40 percent of global clean power project investments will be made in China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the company that compiled the underlying data for the report said, “Strong and consistent policies in Asia have helped double private investment over the past two years. Asia is now the leading region for clean energy investment, and its lead is set to extend in the near future unless Europe and the US make a step change in their support for the sector.”

While the U.S. is currently lagging far behind in private investments in clean energy, the report found that they are among those with the most to gain from passing strong clean energy policies. The report cites an example that says the U.S. has the potential to attract $342 billion in clean power project investments over the next 10 years under the Enhanced clean energy scenario.

You can download a copy of Global Clean Power: A $2.3 Trillion Opportunity here.

Giant Miscanthus Field Day Scheduled

repreveREPREVE Renewables of Georgia is planning to prepare for the start of 2011 spring planting with the first annual Freedom Giant Miscanthus Field Day next month.

As holder of the exclusive license for the commercialization of Freedom giant miscanthus, the company will use the field day to educate growers and landowners about the planting and harvesting of the biomass crop, and provide live demonstrations and educational presentations by industry experts. Freedom Field Day will be held at REPREVE Renewables’ main farm in Soperton, GA on January 13, 2011.

“With spring planting season in March, it’s important for REPREVE Renewables to educate land owners and growers on the benefits of Freedom giant miscanthus,” said Phillip Jennings, COO of REPREVE Renewables. “Our goal is to provide growers with the planting stock and guidance they need to establish commercial-scale plots, as quickly and economically as possible. Hosting this event is the perfect opportunity to provide our customers and potential customers with the knowledge and facts that will help in making important crop decisions for 2011 and years to come.”

The Freedom Field Day is open to the public, but advance registration is required. More information can be found here.

Biomass for Biofuels Will Promote ‘Earth Grab’

Experts estimate that the biofuels boom could grow to be worth more than $1 trillion and has brought agriculture back to center stage, but according to advocates with Food Secure Canada (FSC), this movement will not feed people nor mitigate climate change. On Friday, November 26, 2010, FSC is hosting Earth Grab, a community forum that will discuss the growth of biomass for biofuels, their impact on food security and climate change and offer alternatives ideas and solutions.

According to Jim Thomas of ETC Group, an international research institute located in Ottawa, Canada the fossil fuel economy is transforming rapidly into a bio-economy. “Plants, trees and forests are the new oil fields. They’re above the ground, and they’re easy to grab,” said Thomas.

Thomas, along with other leaders spearheading the global farm movement from Brazil, Mali and Haiti will be presenting during Earth Grab. The forum officially kicks off the Food Secure Canada national conference that takes place at University of Montreal from November 26-28.

Earlier this month, ETC Group released a new report, “The New Biomassters,” that detailed how global energy, forestry, agribusiness, chemical, and biotech companies are creating a bio-economy built on converting biomass into fuels and other products. According to the report, the result has been a “global grab” of plants, lands, ecosystems, and traditional cultures.

“The emerging global bio-economy is worth trillions, and it threatens to eat up our crops, forests and other plant life,” said Thomas. “However, what’s being sold as a ‘green’ switch from fossil fuels to plant-based production, is in fact a red-hot resource grab on the lands, livelihoods, knowledge and resources of the peoples of the Global South.”

Based on this scenario, Brazil is seen as one of the worst offenders, Continue reading

Survey Says…Growers Ready to Grow Energy Crops

America’s growers are ready and willing to produce biomass for advanced biofuels and biopower and have the land to do so according to a survey released by Ceres, Inc. The survey of U.S. growers showed that 71 percent of respondents were very interested or interested in growing dedicated energy crops. In addition, 77 percent of the respondents said they had underutilized land on which they could grow energy grasses like miscanthus, switchgrass or sorghum.

This survey comes on the tail of a recent announcement by the USDA regarding the final rules for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The program pays eligible growers a incentive to grow biomass crops for use for biopower or to create biofuels.

Ceres is counting on the growth of biomass for bioenergy and most recently announced that they have developed the first salt tolerant crop, switchgrass. This is a huge advancement especially for agricultural areas that have ceased to produce crops due to the high levels of salt in the water supply. Eventually, Ceres will be looking for farmers to grow their proprietary energy crops.

One of the main reasons survey respondents had for growing energy crops was the ability to diversify their current operations. Other reasons given were better use of marginal land and spending less time, money and resources on crop management. In addition, 70 percent of respondents were open to engaging in long-term contracts and 48 percent said they would anticipate putting at least half of their acreage in long-term contracts.

“This is one of the areas where we were interested in learning more about, since reliable feedstock supplies will be critical for new bioenergy facilities to obtain project financing,” said Gary Koppenjan who directs communications and product marketing for Ceres. “What constitutes a long-term contract will likely be an area for discussion, but it appears the suppliers and users are on the same page.”

This non-scientific survey was completed during the summer of 2010 and was skewed to growers in the Southeast United States since that is an area particularly suited to grow energy crops.

Biomass Diesel Featured at Green Cars LA Auto Show

A biomass-based synthetic diesel is being featured at the Green Cars LA Auto Show Ride & Drive event.

Rentech, Inc. says its synthetic RenDiesel(R) fuel is powering an Audi A3 TDI, coming on the heels of the recent four-day, 1,000 mile endurance drive that is part of the 2010 Green Car of the Year Tour:

During [last month’s] drive, the Audi A3 TDI averaged 43 mpg on RenDiesel fuel, which is greater than the EPA average highway fuel economy rating for that car. The RenDiesel fuel used on the drive was produced from natural gas and can also be made from biomass. The renewable RenDiesel fuel to be produced from biomass using Rentech-SilvaGas gasification technology at Rentech’s Rialto Renewable Energy Center is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis by as much as 97% over conventional diesel fuel and by a comparable amount over electric vehicles. A vehicle using RenDiesel fuel is also expected to be as much as two times more fuel efficient than one running on ethanol. RenDiesel fuel contains approximately 60% more energy per gallon than ethanol and diesel engines typically achieve 20-40% more miles per gallon than gasoline engines. RenDiesel fuel also produces fewer volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions than ethanol or traditional diesel and has lower tailpipe emissions compared to traditional diesel.

Rentech’s Rialto Renewable Energy Center is expected to produce about 640 barrels per day of renewable synthetic fuels, primarily RenDiesel fuel, and approximately 35 MW of renewable electric power (RenPower) from urban green waste diverted from landfills.

OPEC Slams International Biomass Programs

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) slammed global biomass programs in its most recent oil report while at the same time raising oil demand forecasts for 2011. The organization was highly critical of global incentives designed to aid companies who are focused on developing biofuels from biomass and reducing the use of fossil-fuel based energy.

In the report, OPEC writes, “Although these government subsidies are helping the biofuel industry, the negative effect on the environment is vast and the programmes place a burden on the public budget.” OPEC cites a statistic that says biofuel tax credits are costing tax payers $500 million each year but they fail to note that global oil subsidies topped more than $312 billion last year.

In particular, OPEC cites concerns of deforestation in places such as Brazil and also environment and land use issues in countries such as South America and Asia, and criticizes the biofuels programs of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Africa has also been highlighted as a country that will be negatively affected by biofuels policy.

In the report, OPEC estimates demand for its oil next year will reach 29.2 million barrels per day (bpd), up 1.4 per cent from the 28.8 million bpd projected for this year. The country cited as having the biggest impact on increased oil use is China. This updated number is 400,000 bpd higher than last month’s forecast. Last month also went down as the highest oil output month so far this year with 29.3 million bpd.

Here in the states, daily ethanol production is nearing 1 million barrels per day (b/d)  with 895,000 b/d produced the week ending November 12, 2010. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) reported that the daily production numbers were up 18,000 b/d from the week prior and the 4-week average daily production topped out at 879,000 b/d. Daily ethanol production represented 10 percent of daily average gasoline demand that dropped to 375.89 million gallons per day. In addition, stocks of ethanol are now at 16.7 million barrels.

Iowa Power Fund Awards Three Energy Projects

The Iowa Power Fund has awarded three energy projects in the state more than $4.2 million. The decisions were made yesterday during the board meeting which took place at Grand View University. When combined, the three projects will generate an additional $21 million in leveraged funds. To date, the Iowa Power Fund has awarded more than $47 million to 37 projects focusing on energy research and development, early stage commercialization and education.

Ames-based AmbroZea was awarded $1.5 million for its work in the ethanol industry. The company will be applying high-protein expression biotechnology to further optimize multi-tasking yeast for commercial deployment.

Boone-based Avello Bioenergy, Inc. was awarded $2.5 million to help the company build a demonstration scale biomass plant, using local “farm-raised” feedstocks. The company is partnering with both the private industry and academics on the facility. The grant also include an educational component to reach out to researchers and students at Iowa State University and the Iowa Farm Bureau to benefit farmers.

The third award was given to Des Moines-based Indigo Dawn to focus on energy efficiency in renovated buildings.

New Solar Farm in Taylorsville, NC Powers Homes

A new solar farm in Taylorsville, NC is up and running and powering numerous homes and businesses in the community served by EnergyUnited. The solar project consists of 4,224 photovoltaic (PV) panels that can generate enough energy to power 150 homes. Unlike some solar systems that are designed using conventional fixed-tilt technologies, this project uses a tracking systems to follow the sun’s movement during the day, increasing the capture of sunlight, thusly increasing the amount of energy produced. It also reduces the amount of land needed for a solar project.

EnergyUnited provides electricity to residents of 20 counties in the state, and will buy all the energy produced from the one-megawatt (MW) solar farm. The company signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with DEGS, a division of Duke Energy. This is DEG’s third completed solar project with a 1-MW PV solar farms in Shelby, NC and a 14-MW facility in San Antonio, TX.

“At EnergyUnited, we’re committed to helping build a clean energy future for our members,” said Wayne Wilkins, CEO of the cooperative. “The solar farm, along with power produced at the Iredell County landfill, allows us to meet state requirements for renewable energy, while continuing to provide reliable energy services at competitive prices.”

North Carolina passed a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard that requires utilities to purchase 10 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2018. As such, EnergyUnited will receive the associated renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by the solar project.

“Our goal is to help customers make strategic investments in renewable energy in a way that’s affordable and practical,” said Greg Wolf, DEGS senior vice president and head of its commercial solar business. “We’re pleased to add EnergyUnited to our growing list of quality customers.”

In addition to its renewable energy contracts, EnergyUnited is also researching potential investments in hydropower, wind power and biomass projects.

New Controversial Biofuels Report Released

According to a new study released this week, the European Union (EU) plans to increase its use of biofuels over the next 10 years and it will require 69,000 square kilometers of new land causing climate change to become worse. “Driving to Destruction” was commissioned by a coalition of environmental and development NGOs and the study reports that by 2020, 90 percent of the 9.5 percent of biofuels will come from food crops.

“Biofuels are not a climate-friendly solution to our energy needs. The EU plans effectively give companies a blank cheque to continue grabbing land from the world’s poor by growing biofuels that fill our cars rather than their stomachs,” said Laura Sullivan, ActionAid’s European Policy and Campaigns Manager. “Europe’s energy policies are putting millions of people in danger and threaten Africa’s fragile food security.”

The global biofuels community is not taking the report lying down. “As a matter of record, our industry has always welcomed the debate about biofuels sustainability in large part because the alternative – more oil – is by definition unsustainable,” said Bliss Baker with the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA). “However, NGO’s that use this debate as an opportunity to stoke fears and sell memberships in their organizations do a disservice to us all.”

According to the report, an area over twice the size of Belgium will need to be converted into biofuels plantations putting poor communities in danger if European countries use industrial biofuels to meet their renewable energy targets by 2020. Even more, the report claims that when indirect land use change is taken into account, a highly contested theory, biofuels will emit an extra 27-56 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year – the equivalent to an extra 12 to 26 million cars on Europe’s roads by 2020. Lastly, the report states that under the plans, 5 countries will be responsible for three quarters of all extra emissions. The UK, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France are projected to produce the most extra greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels.

Baker continued, “The research is chalk full of allegations disguised as facts. The report repeatedly makes statements as if they are facts such as ‘…the EU plans WILL result in the conversion of up to 69,000 sq. km of land for the use of biofuels.’ Sounds ominous but for the one word “upto.” It could be 1 square kilometer that gets converted. The point is they don’t know how many kilometres will be converted (if any) and predicting it with any degree of confidence has yet to be demonstrated anywhere.” Continue reading

Is Clean Diesel a New Alternative Fuel?

There is a surge of new diesel vehicles entering the U.S. market place in response to the need for better fuel economy along with lower fuel emissions. The diesel industry has been promoting low diesel fuels, and in some cases, diesel fuel has been labeled an “advanced fuel.”

For example, Rentech has created a diesel fuel called RenDiesel that can be produced using a variety of sources ranging from biomass to natural gas. The company has proposed building a renewable energy center in Rialto, Calif., that could produce approximately 640 barrels a day of synthetic fuels and 35 MW of renewable electric power from urban green waste diverted from landfills. According to RenTech, RenDiesel would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 97 percent when compared to conventional clean diesel fuel as well boast greater emission reductions over electric vehicles.

The company also claims that RenDiesel produces emissions lower in particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as fewer volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions than ethanol or traditional clean diesel. The fuel meets California Low Carbon Fuel Standards, and it is already being used as an ultra-clean synthetic jet fuel. It has the potential be twice as fuel efficient as a car running on ethanol.

“Diesel vehicles such as the Audi A3 TDI and synthetic drop-in fuels such as renewable RenDiesel provide powerful solutions to reducing tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions as well as the need for domestically produced fuels,” said D. Hunt Ramsbottom, President and CEO of Rentech in a company press release. “These solutions are magnified when renewable RenDiesel powers an A3 TDI, making it one of the most viable and near-term means for emissions reductions,” Mr. Ramsbottom added.

Another company producing clean diesel is Advanced Refining Concepts that has created a product called GDiesel. The fuel combines conventional ultra-low sulfur diesel with natural gas and is developed through the company’s proprietary process called ClearRefining. GDiesel can be used in diesel vehicles with no modifications. Continue reading

USDA Speaks, Ethanol Industry Reacts

The ethanol industry praised USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack today and expressed gratitude for his department’s commitment to fulfill the administration’s goal of transitioning to renewable energy. This morning at the Press Club in DC, Vilsack announced a series of measures aimed at supporting the rural economy and reducing dependence on foreign oil that include support for corn-based ethanol.

“The Obama Administration has shown strong leadership on the issue of domestic biofuels, putting forward a vision that recognizes the importance of the existing industry and the potential of new technologies. Domestic ethanol production is one of the few bright spots in a gloomy economic forecast, providing tens of thousands of jobs in hundreds of rural communities all across the country,” said Renewable Fuels President and CEO, Bob Dinneen. “By expanding the scope of American ethanol production to include new feedstocks from grasses to wood waste to algae, the industry can extend the benefits seen in rural America to every corner of the country.

As part of the announcement, Vilsack said the USDA would reinstate the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Another important initiative would encourage the installation of blender pumps.

“If we truly want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs and improve our environment, we need to ensure that our entire vehicle fleet and fuel infrastructure are ready to use expanded U.S. ethanol production. Each additional flex fuel vehicle and blender pump gives consumers the option of filling up with clean, renewable ethanol to create a more secure energy future for this country,” remarked Tom Buis, the CEO of Growth Energy.

While the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) support all the initiatives laid out in USDA’s plan, they also called for the passage of the soon to expire tax credit. Continue reading