The United States Department of Energy (DOE) have signed a memorandum of understanding [pdf] with the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Navy (DON) to support the development of advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels for applications in military and commercial transportation.
Over the next three years each Department will commit $170 million in investment toward constructing or retrofitting drop-in biofuel plants and refineries to produce bio-based jet and diesel fuels.
The joint initiative will partner with private industry to fund the projects. In his announcment, President Obama said, "supporting biofuels cannot be the role of government alone." To this end, according to the DOE, the success of the initiative will require the private industry to match the collective $510 million in federal funding by at least a ratio of one to one.
This initiative builds on a previous USDA-DON partnership. In April 2010, the two Departments joined forces to develop a plan to convert America's naval fleet into an energy efficient, biofuel consumer. The plan sets a target for the Navy to source half of the total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, and on-shore installations from alternative energy.
This announcement comes just a week after the U.S. Army said it has has formed a new task force that will focus exclusively on the development of clean energy sources. The task force will help the Army achieve its target of sourcing 25% of its energy needs from renewables by 2025.
The DOE-USDA-DON biofuels initiative will be overseen by the White House Biofuels Interagency Work Group and Rural Council which says that in addition to accelerating biofuel development the initiative will also spur economic growth in rural communities.
In response to the announcement, biofuel trade group BIO released a statement formally applauding the joint initiative. Made up of 1,1100 members BIO represents biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers in 30 nations.
“The White House Biofuels Interagency Work Group has done a thoughtful job of recognizing how important biofuels production is for national defense. Energy independence is indeed a national security issue,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section.
He added, “Our nation’s military is as much at the mercy of high oil and gasoline prices as the average consumer. In addition, it is imperative that our services have access to domestically produced fuel in order to avoid supply disruptions. Drop in advanced biofuels produced in small, strategically located biorefineries can be an important ‘force multiplier’ by increasing the military’s ability to operate where needed and reducing the costs and the number of combat forces necessary to protect energy supply lines.
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