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More Than 5,000 New Pumps Planned

USDA announces plan to nearly double the number of biofuel pumps across the country with $100 million in grants to match state-level and private funding.

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There's one more reason why a higher ethanol-blend requirement is a hot-button issue: drought.

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Let's create jobs while concurrently expanding the U.S. output of advanced biofuels, says Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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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.

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The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have awarded ten grants totaling $12.2 million to spur research in biofuel and bioenergy crops. The specific goal is to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of growing bioenergy crops.

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Researchers from the University of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have analyzed the energy life cycle of soybean-based biodiesel and presented updated data showing the renewable fuel offers a fossil energy ratio of 5.54 to 1. This isn't a typo. The 5.54:1 ratio comes mostly from the "free" power of the sun that helps the crops grow.

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Last Friday, the Obama administration announced that it will offer incentives to gasoline stations that install E85 (a fuel consisting of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) pumps as part of the government's effort to boost the use of biofuels. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that the administration has set a target of having 10,000 additional E85 pumps nationwide over the next five years. In a statement issued on Friday, Vilsack wrote:

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will soon explore the feasibility of offering crop insurance to producers of biofuel feedstocks ranging from straw to corn stover to woody biomass. This feasibility evaluation, to be funded by the Risk Management Agency, builds upon the USDA's ongoing effort to insure growers of switchgrass, energy cane and camelina.

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Is all of the political fighting over ethanol subsidies kind of a moot point? Not entirely, but arguing over the role the biofuel will play in America in the future might be. This is the take from USDA chief economist Joe Glauber, who told Reuters point blank:

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USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today at the National Press Club in downtown Washington that his agency would give a boost to biofuel producers through a Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). Vilsack said the USDA will soon publish the BCAP's final rule, and that means eligible biomass producers will be able to get money from the USDA. The BCAP operated as a trial program last year. Here's how it works:

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The U.S. Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS2) becomes effective Thursday, July 1 and it describes a whole lot of changes for the biofuels industry in the U.S in the coming decade or so. To prepare for the changes and to figure out just what's even possible, the USDA issued a "Regional Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022" last week. One thing that's not changing – not yet, anyway - is the dominating role of ethanol made from corn in the U.S.

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Given that the United States military spends a large amount of its resources fighting to secure regions of the world that are most important as a source of crude oil, it would certainly make tactical sense to reduce its dependence on those fuels. Some small scale tests of biofuels in military vehicles have occurred in recent years.

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America, your apparent hatred for disfigured fruit means we may have a big, untapped biomass source to make ethanol. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Oklahoma has been testing ways to make the simple sugars found in watermelons into ethanol, and the USDA is now reporting some success on that front.

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Even with all of GM's problems, the big Project Driveway endeavor continues. The latest addition to the ranks hydrogen-fueled Equinox test vehicle drivers is the USDA, which took delivery of an Equinox this week. The USDA will drive the fuel cell vehicle for the next six months "to transport top leadership and Congressional Relations Staff on official business on Capitol Hill" so GM will get real-world data and some PR out of the lease. Not bad. For its part, GM will maintain and fuel the vehicl

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Dale T. Decker, industry and government relations director for Decker Truck Line Inc., has got a new pet project: testing the potential of biodiesel. Now when a company states it's going to conduct real-world testing, you rarely get an accurate control group and conversely, lab conditions offer only theoretical insights to the real world. That's apparently not good enough for Decker.

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The Department of Agriculture predicts that the U.S., which exports 45-50 million tons of corn yearly, will instead convert 50 million tons to ethanol next year. Last year alone the country exported over 40 million tons which is enough to feed over 130 million people.

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