White House extends aviation biofuel program

The US federal government has extended a research program to develop biofuels for use in commercial aircraft, by 5 years. The US Agriculture Secretary and the Transportation Secretary made the announcement, and said this would create jobs and economic opportunity in rural America, as well as lessen America’s reliance on foreign oil. They want aviation biofuels for civilian aviation as well as for the military. The “Farm to Fly” initiative wants production of drop-in aviation biofuels to reach 1 billion gallons per year by 2018. The White House has promoted the aviation and other biofuel programs as a way to lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on foreign oil and grow domestic biofuel companies. The Farm to Fuel plan is to use food crops – not only non-edible feedstocks, such as algae, because these are progressing too slowly and are not produced in large quantities. There seems to be little mention of concerns about food impacts of producing biofuels from food crops.

White House extends aviation biofuel program

By Zack Colman (The Hill, USA)

The federal government extended a research program to develop biofuels for use in commercial airplanes by five years on Monday.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the agreement at a conference outside Washington, D.C.

“By continuing to work together to produce American made ‘drop-in’ aviation fuels from renewable feedstocks, we will create jobs and economic opportunity in rural America, lessen America’s reliance on foreign oil and develop a thriving biofuels industry that will benefit commercial and military enterprises,” Vilsack said in a statement.

The initiative, which started in 2010, is part of a broader federal effort to bring domestic production of those drop-in aviation biofuels to 1 billion gallons per year by 2018.

Known as “Farm to Fly,” the effort also involves private airline firms — who cite making the fuel supply chain more efficient as a key benefit — and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The White House has promoted the aviation and other biofuel programs as a way to lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on foreign oil and grow domestic biofuel companies.

LaHood said aviation biofuels would help President Obama maintain commitments to address climate change in his second term.

“In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called on us to work together to reduce carbon emissions – developing these alternative jet fuels will do just that, while creating jobs and helping airlines save money on fuel,” LaHood said in a Monday statement.

Obama has advocated growing the domestic biofuel industry through increased federal research, which the fiscal 2014 budget plan he proposed last week would do.

Biofuel backers say cooperative federal programs like the one extended Monday are key to jump-starting production of the next-generation biofuels sought by the aviation industry.

Those biofuels are made from non-edible feedstock, such as algae. But investment in that technology has lagged behind food-based biofuel, such as ethanol made from corn, and is therefore not yet produced in large quantities.

Some commercial airliners have performed test runs with biofuel, which they combine with petroleum to create a 50-50 blend.

Use of the biofuels is not widespread, as they’re still expensive — which is largely a symptom of the lack of commercial production.

While the Obama administration has put its faith in those next-generation biofuels, the industry has several opponents on Capitol Hill.

Many fiscal conservatives contend the technology is not viable. They say it’s been too slow to come online and that the government is wasting money trying to grow the industry.

Those lawmakers have tried to gut Defense Department programs for drop-in biofuels. The attempts have foundered amidst opposition from Democrats and Midwestern Republicans.






Obama administration renews aviation biofuel program

Date: 16-Apr-13

by Ayesha Rascoe  (Planet Ark)
The Obama administration on Monday 15th April renewed an interagency agreement that backs the development of biofuels for the aviation industry and reiterated its support for embattled federal renewable fuel targets.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood signed a pact extending a program that has worked with the private sector and rural communities to create an alternative to fossil fuels for aviation.

“We want to re-affirm the importance of this particular industry in this administration,” Vilsack told reporters at an industry conference in Washington.

The “Farm to Fly” program aims to support annual production of 1 billion gallons of aviation biofuels by 2018.

The program will focus on evaluating various sources of renewable alternatives to jet fuel, while also developing state and local partnerships with private companies.

Federal support for biofuels has come under increased scrutiny amid complaints from livestock producers and refiners that the federal biofuels mandate has contributed to higher food prices and could threaten gasoline supplies.

Last week, lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced legislation that would eliminate the corn-based ethanol portion of the mandate, which requires increasing amounts of renewable fuels to blended into U.S. gasoline and diesel supplies.

The Obama administration’s support for the mandate could block attempts to curtail the targets, though, especially as most lawmakers from major grain-producing states oppose any limits on the mandate.

[The rest of the article is about biofuel for road vehicles].

Vilsack encouraged the biofuel industry representatives to remain “vigilant” in support of the mandate.

“There are industries and folks who are deeply concerned about the progress that is being made, who want to show that progress down,” Vilsack said. “Now, is not the time to step back, now is the time to continue moving forward.”

Vilsack told reporters that the mandate was lowering, not raising, gasoline prices for consumers and creating jobs in rural communities.

Oil refiners, who want the mandate rescinded, say the targets are approaching a point where compliance would require the industry blend more ethanol into gasoline than can physically be done at the 10 percent per gallon level.

This problem is referred to as the “blend wall”.

Supporters of ethanol argue the “blend wall” could be easily overcome if refiners drop their opposition to allowing gasoline with 15 percent ethanol content, or E15.

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved use of E15 in cars built since 2001, which now account for about two-thirds of U.S. passenger vehicles on the road, but gasoline station operators and oil refiners have voiced concerns that higher blends could hurt vehicle engines.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny and Leslie Gevirtz)