As part of the administration’s effort to promote production of fuel from renewable sources, create jobs and mitigate the effects of climate change, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday announced a series of measures during a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He also urged Congress to pass a short-term extension of current subsidies for production of corn ethanol.
New measures include the publication of a final rule to implement the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Through this program, eight additional biobased product categories and 600 products will be eligible for federal procurement preference. Vilsack also described a five-year agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other “green” feedstocks with the goal of decreasing dependence on foreign oil and stabilizing aviation fuel costs. Under the partnership, the agencies will bring together 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.
Vilsack also provided highlights of a biofuels report prepared by USDA’s Economic Research Service that says replacing more petroleum with cost-competitive domestic biofuels reduces crude oil imports, thereby lowering prices for energy and benefiting the U.S. economy. Regarding higher-ethanol (E15) pumps at gas stations, Vilsack said USDA would partially underwrite distribution of 10,000 gas pumps and storage systems capable of dispensing the fuel.
There are 170,000 gas stations nationwide. Each new pump costs $25,000, which means the total cost of outfitting each station to dispense E15 fuel would be $250 million.