The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which they will work together with the airline industry over the next 5 years to develop appropriate feed stocks that can be most efficiently processed into jet fuel.
Doing so will decrease the industry’s current dependence on foreign oil and help stabilize fuel costs in the long run, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Under the partnership, the agencies will bring together their experience in research, policy analysis and air transportation sector dynamics to assess the availability of different kinds of feedstocks that could be processed by bio-refineries to produce jet fuels.
The participants will develop a tool to evaluate the status of different components of a feedstock supply chain, such as availability of biomass from farms and forests, the potential of that biomass for production of jet fuel, and the length of time it will take to ramp up to full-scale production. The agencies already have existing programs and collaborative agreements with private and public partners and resources to help biorefiners develop cost-effective production plans for jet aircraft biofuels.
This cooperative agreement supports a larger research plan led by USDA through its five Regional Biomass Research Centers, which will help accelerate the development of a commercial advanced biofuels industry across the United States.
Secretary Vilsack also announced other measures to support the growth of the advanced biofuels industry, including the publication of a final rule to implement the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). Under the BCAP final rule, USDA will resume making payments to eligible producers. The program had operated as a pilot, pending publication of the final rule.
Authorized in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, BCAP is designed to ensure that a sufficiently large base of new, non-food, non-feed biomass crops is established in anticipation of future demand for renewable energy consumption.
BCAP uses a dual approach to support the production of renewable energy. First, BCAP provides assistance for the establishment and production of eligible renewable biomass crops within specified project areas. Producers who enter into BCAP contracts may receive payments of up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing eligible perennial crops. Further, they can receive payments for up to five years for annual or non-woody perennial crops and up to 15 years for woody perennial crops. FSA is accepting project area proposals and, after project area proposals have been approved, eligible producers may participate by enrolling at their FSA county office.
In addition, BCAP also assists agricultural and forest landowners and operators by providing matching payments for the transportation of certain eligible materials that are sold to qualified biomass conversion facilities. The facilities convert the materials into heat, power, biobased products or advanced biofuels.
The Secretary also discussed a biofuels report prepared by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) that says replacing more petroleum with cost-competitive domestic biofuels reduces crude oil imports, thereby lowering prices for energy and benefiting the US economy. Findings of the report include:
- The biofuels industry becomes more productive as cost-reducing technology is applied, which results in higher wages for workers.
- Gains in Gross Domestic Product and real income are driven largely from the contribution from technological progress in biofuels, which increases the productivity of the economy.
- Next-generation biofuels are considered to be a decreasing cost industry.