Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on 25th July that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking applications for funding to help support the development of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals and biobased products.
Funding is being provided through the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, formerly known as the Biorefinery Assistance Program. Congress established the program in 2008 to encourage the development of biofuels that use renewable feedstocks. The 2014 Farm Bill expanded the program to include renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing. The program now provides loan guarantees of up to US$250 million to develop, construct and retrofit commercial-scale biorefineries and to develop renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing facilities.
USDA has provided $844 million in loan commitments to 10 businesses in the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program since the start of the Obama administration. Companies receiving these commitments are projected to produce 159 million gallons of advanced biofuels.
In 2011, under this program, USDA provided Sapphire Energy a US$54.5 million loan guarantee to build a refined algal oil commercial facility. Sapphire’s “Green Crude Farm” in Columbus, New Mexico., is an example of how USDA funding and partnerships with the private sector are helping to support the development of biorefineries.
Over the course of this Administration, USDA has invested US$332 million to accelerate research on renewable energy ranging from genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops, to development of biofuel conversion processes and cost/benefit estimates of renewable energy production.
The Department has taken steps to support biobased product manufacturing that promises to create new jobs across rural America – including adding new categories of qualified biobased products for Federal procurement and establishing reporting by Federal contractors of biobased product purchases. The more than 2,200 products that have received certification to display the USDA Certified Biobased Product label are creating and increasing consumer and commercial awareness about a material’s biobased content as one measure of its environmental footprint. A 2015 USDA study of the bioeconomy found that the biobased products industry generates US$369 billion and 4 million jobs each year for the economy. Biobased products industries directly employ approximately 1.5 million people, while an additional 2.5 million jobs are supported in other sectors.
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