Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today visited a Massachusetts renewable energy company to highlight USDA's continuing efforts to invest in research and development projects that will help reduce America's reliance on foreign oil. A local company, Agrivida, is developing technologies to produce next-generation biofuels which will support economic development in rural America, create clean energy jobs, and help protect American families and businesses from future spikes in gas prices.
"Reducing America's dependence on foreign oil requires the efforts of our brightest scientists, our best companies, and strategic investments in biofuels research," said Vilsack. "Working with private industry and our government partners, we are developing new energy sources from renewable, homegrown next-generation feedstocks. By developing and commercializing advanced biofuels, we will create jobs, provide consumers with new options to fuel their vehicles, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
Agrivida is developing methods to reduce the cost of converting biofuel feedstocks into sugar, focusing on sorghum, corn stover, and switchgrass. The Department of Energy and USDA have helped fund research in this effort through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. Earlier this month, Secretary Vilsack announced a total of $41 million in grants through the program to fund an additional seven research and development projects throughout the country that will help increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products.
USDA also recently announced that the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) will support flexible fuel pumps, (sometimes referred to as "blender pumps"). This is expected to encourage fuel station owners to invest the capital necessary to give American motorists the option of selecting the blend of renewable fuel that meets their needs. The Obama administration has set a goal of installing 10,000 flexible fuel pumps nationwide within 5 years.
USDA has awarded a total of $6.3 million through the REAP program to fund approximately 60 renewable energy projects in Massachusetts. These include biodigesters, photovoltaic systems, greenhouse thermal curtains, and wind energy projects.