Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $10 million in research grants to spur production of biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products that will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and help create jobs. Vilsack highlighted the announcement with a visit to Michigan State University, a grant awardee.
The long-term goal for the research projects, which were selected through a competitive process, is to implement sustainable regional systems that materially deliver liquid transportation biofuels to help meet the Energy Independence and Security Act goal of 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2022.
The Secretary also pointed to a recent study released by Iowa State University (ISU), and funded by the US Department of Agriculture, which finds that while the use of biobased products in automobile manufacturing is increasing, there are still many parts in the top-selling automobiles manufactured in the United States that may be replaced with biobased materials.
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s sustainable bioenergy challenge area targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that: contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems.
The programs focus on the many environmental, social and economic benefits and trade-offs associated with decisions and policies regarding the where, when, and how of national and regional biofuels development. Projects were awarded in four areas:
- policy options for and impacts on regional biofuels production systems;
- impacts of regional bioenergy feedstock production systems on wildlife and pollinators;
- socioeconomic impacts of biofuels on rural communities; and
- environmental implications of direct and indirect land use change.
Fiscal year 2012 awards include:
- University of Arizona, $36,000
- Arizona State University, $350,000
- University of Georgia, $345,689
- University of Florida, $496,996
- University of Florida, $497,851
- Boise State University, $493,210
- University of Idaho, $499,009
- University of Idaho, $350,000
- Michigan State University, $349,695
- University of Minnesota, $498,786
- University of Minnesota, $349,996
- Mississippi State University, $273,120
- University of Missouri, $499,447
- Lincoln University, $94,258
- Montclair State University, $349,963
- Duke University, $349,084
- Oregon State University, $349,624
- Temple University, $149,977
- Pennsylvania State University, $348,959
- Clemson University, $50,000
- University of Tennessee, $350,000
- Texas A&M University, $255,972
- Texas AgriLife Extension, $499,619
- Washington State University, $349,993
- West Virginia University, $349,952
- University of Wisconsin, Madison $496,109
- University of Wisconsin, Madison, $345,327
- USDA Agricultural Research Service, $500,000
AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.
The ISU report, Biobased Automobile Parts Investigation, shows that “the history of biobased automobile parts begins early in the development of automobiles themselves. During the 1930s, automobile pioneer Henry Ford began developing soy-based automobile parts.” The report goes on to highlight how a variety of US automobile manufacturers are showing a greater commitment to exploring biobased options, and provides a variety of resources for policymakers and other decision-makers interested in exploring the issue.