Advanced, drop-in biofuels seem to be all the rage. Perhaps that's why the United States Departments of Agriculture and Energy, along with the U.S. Navy, have announced the next step in creating a public-private partnership to develop and commercialize them.

On August 30, the Secretaries of the three Departments, in an effort to gather intel to accelerate the development of drop-in biofuels, issued a joint Request for Information (RFI). The Departments say the use of advanced biofuels will reduce U.S. demand for foreign oil and "strengthen rural America." According to the Departments, the main objective of the RFI is:
The construction or retrofit of several domestic commercial or pre-commercial scale advanced drop-in biofuel refineries. These facilities will produce drop-in advanced biofuels meeting military specifications, will be located in geographically diverse locations for ready market access, and will have no significant impact on the supply of agricultural commodities for the production of food.
This RFI builds on the recent joint announcement by the USDA, DOE and U.S. Navy to invest up to $510 million over the next three years in "advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation."
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USDA, Departments of Energy and Navy Seek Input from Industry to Advance Biofuels for Military and Commercial Transportation

August 30, 2011 - 12:23pm

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2011 –Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus today announced the next step in the creation of a public-private partnership to develop drop-in advanced biofuels. The Secretaries issued a Request for Information (RFI) laying out the Administration's goals, assumptions, and tools and requesting from industry specific ideas for how to leverage private capital markets to establish a commercially viable drop-in biofuels industry. The critical information gathered through this process will help accelerate the development and use of these biofuels, reduce the Nation's demand for foreign oil, and strengthen rural America.

On August 16, 2011, the three Departments announced an investment in the private sector of up to $510 million during the next three years to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. The initiative responds to a directive from President Obama issued in March as part of his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, the Administration's framework for reducing dependence on foreign oil. Drop-in biofuels serve as direct replacements or supplements to existing gasoline, diesel and jet fuels, without any changes to existing fuel distribution networks or engines.

"Energy independence is critical to the military and critical to national security. That is why the Department of Navy is partnered in the effort to create a biofuels market," said Secretary Mabus. "Our reliance on foreign oil means that the most volatile regions in the world impact whether our aircraft fly and our ships sail. Home-grown biofuels will create a more stable market for fuel and greater security for the Navy and the nation."

"These efforts will accelerate advanced technologies to produce infrastructure-compatible biofuels that will replace imported crude oil with secure, renewable fuels made here in the U.S.," said Energy Secretary Chu. "Building manufacturing capability for next-generation drop-in biofuels in the United States will support economic development in rural communities, create skilled jobs for American workers, and help the U.S. lead the way toward a secure energy future."

The main objective of this government-industry partnership is the construction or retrofit of several domestic commercial or pre-commercial scale advanced drop-in biofuel refineries. These facilities will produce drop-in advanced biofuels meeting military specifications, will be located in geographically diverse locations for ready market access, and will have no significant impact on the supply of agricultural commodities for the production of food.

"This is another step by the Obama Administration to give our Nation's development in rural communities, farmers, ranchers and producers of biofuels the financial tools they need to help bring greater energy independence to America," Secretary Vilsack said. "Working with our partners in the Department of Navy, the Department of Energy and the private sector, we are developing the technology and creating the demand necessary to create a new revenue stream in rural America, and produce new, sustainable skilled jobs that cannot be exported."

In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council to build on the Administration's robust economic strategy for rural America and make sure that continued federal investments create maximum benefit for rural Americans. Administration officials have been working to coordinate programs across the government and encourage public-private partnerships to improve economic conditions and create jobs in rural communities.

The RFI was released on behalf of the Secretaries by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Acquisition Technology and Logistics in coordination with the Defense Production Act Title III executive agent Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Representatives from USDA, DOE or Department of Navy will be present at the following events and available to answer industry questions: Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo, Honolulu, HI September 13-15; SRI in the Rockies Conference, New Orleans, LA October 2-5; Naval Energy Forum, Washington, DC October 13-14; AIChE Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN October 16-21; Global Cleantech 100 Summit, Washington, DC October 17-18; Florida Energy Summit (Farm to Fuel), Orlando, FL October 26-28.

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