Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted USDA's collaboration with General Electric (GE) Aviation, the Ohio Aerospace Institute, air carriers and producer groups to develop a Midwest-regional strategy to provide renewable-jet fuel at GE Aviation's Cincinnati-area facilities. Vilsack discussed how this effort is helping grow local jobs by bringing together agricultural producers, processing and transportation entities, refiners and finishers, academics and researchers, and analysts and financial entities. GE Aviation anticipates purchasing up to 5 million gallons of renewable-jet fuel beginning in 2015.
"We have an incredible opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and drive economic development in rural communities across America by developing innovative ways to use agricultural products to help reduce our reliance on foreign oil," said Vilsack. "USDA's collaboration with General Electric Aviation will bring together multiple sectors of Ohio's economy, including agricultural producers, to foster new innovations in the field of renewable fuels while bolstering new economic opportunities in the Midwest. USDA is proud to work alongside private and public institutions to support the research, creation and distribution of next generation energy solutions."
USDA recently awarded a Value Added Producer Grant to the Ohio Soybean Council to help initiate a pilot project through Ohio State University's Bioproducts Innovation Center to refine bio-jet fuel from soybean oil produced by farmer-owners of Ohio's Mercer Landmark cooperative in western Ohio. Renewable-jet fuel produced from various plant oils (e.g. camelina, pennycress, inedible corn oil, algae) has been certified by the American Society of Testing and Materials for aviation use, and is currently being used in limited commercial service. Such a pilot project could provide the basis for commercializing renewable-jet fuel production for future aviation purchases.
In addition, USDA's Farm Service Agency also has a groundbreaking energy crop production initiative underway in northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania through the agency's Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). About 115 contracts are signed to grow nearly 3,700 acres of the energy crop Miscanthus, a perennial grass that grows on previously underutilized lands in the area. Aloterra Energy has agreed to provide farmers technical assistance in planting and to purchase the new crop for future use in energy production-- possibly as a feedstock for Midwest renewable fuel initiatives.
Vilsack also highlighted how USDA is working with federal partners like the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of the Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration to improve our country's energy security and provide sustainable jobs in communities across the country. Last August, President Obama announced a partnership between USDA, DOE and Navy to invest up to $510 million during the next three years in partnership with the private sector to produce advanced, drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation.
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. Working with private and government partners, USDA is supporting research into innovative 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.
Creating new markets for the nation's agricultural products through biobased manufacturing is one of the many steps the Administration has taken over the past three years to strengthen the rural economy. Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council - chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack - the President is committed to a smarter use of existing Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.