Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Support for a New Advanced Biofuel Production Facility

Press Release

By:  Thomas Vilsack
Date: Jan. 20, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has approved a conditional commitment for a $25 million guaranteed loan to build a biorefinery plant with funding support from USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program. The plant will be constructed by Fiberight, LLC based in Blairstown, Iowa.

"This project is another step the Obama administration is taking to support production of a new generation of renewable fuels, in order to build an active biofuels and biomass production industry in every region of the country," said Vilsack. "Investments in renewable energy create jobs and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil."

USDA funding will be used to construct a 55,000 square foot facility that will produce cellulosic ethanol by converting municipal solid waste and other industrial pulps into advanced biofuels, as well as using conventional renewable biofuel derived from seed corn waste. When operational, the facility is expected to produce approximately 3.6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. The process will use a cellulosic microbe to produce up to 15 percent more ethanol than traditional fermentation technology, and reduce energy inputs in the fermentation and distillation process. Fiberight estimates the project will create 38 jobs and save 16 jobs.

Under the conditional commitment, Fiberight must meet specified conditions before the loan guarantee can be completed. Other funding comes from the State of Iowa.Fiberight also received a $2.5 million grant from the Iowa Power Fund in 2010. The company will work with the Benton County landfill to supply a portion of the feedstock for the project. The total project cost is estimated at $59.5 million. Fiberight, LLC was incorporated in 2007 for the purpose of converting an existing ethanol facility into a cellulosic ethanol facility in Blairstown.

This funding is an example of the many ways that USDA is helping revitalize rural economies to create opportunities for growth and prosperity, support innovative technologies, identify new markets for agricultural producers, and better utilize our nation's natural resources.

The Obama Administration is working to promote domestic production of renewable energy to create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, combat global warming, and build stronger rural economy. Today, Americans import just over half of our transportation fuels -- down from 60 percent when President Obama took office -- but we can do more to meet the President's goal of reducing our net fuel imports by one-third by 2025. At Secretary Vilsack's direction, USDA is working to develop the national biofuels industry producing energy from non-food sources in every region of the country. USDA is conducting and encouraging research into innovative new energy technologies and processes, helping companies build biorefineries -- including the first ever commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities -- and supporting farmers, ranchers, and businesses taking risks to pursue new opportunities in biofuels. Along with Federal partners, USDA is establishing an aviation biofuels economy, and have expedited rules and efforts to promote production and commercialization of biofuels.

USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program was authorized by Congress under the 2008 Farm Bill. It provides loan guarantees to capitalize on the growing opportunities in renewable energy provided by advanced biofuels. The Program is designed to assist with the commercial deployment of production technologies to produce advanced biofuels, and thereby increase the energy independence of the United States; promote resource conservation, public health, and the environment; diversify markets for agricultural and forestry products and agriculture waste material; create jobs and enhance the economic development of the rural economy.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of employees in the nation's capital and state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.