The Secretary also announced jointly with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a five year agreement to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other "green" feedstocks in order to decrease dependence on foreign oil and stabilize aviation fuel costs. 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. Just as important, the plan sets out to include as many U.S. rural areas as possible to maximize the economic benefits of biofuel production across the country. The Centers will provide the critical mass needed to develop high-performance teams that will guide biomass research to address needs in both the public and private sector, including commercial aviation, military transportation, and other activities.
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 U.S. economy. The report also includes these findings:
- 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. This means that the cost of producing ethanol will decline as output increases.
The entire ERS report is available here. Information about the USDA agreement with the FAA is available at www.faa.gov/. Biomass conversion facilities, eligible material owners and producers interested in the BCAP program should contact their FSA state offices or go here for more information. Complete information about USDA's renewable energy programs is available through the energy matrix. Information about state contacts for USDA energy programs is available online.