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Vilsack announces grants and loan guarantees for biofuels

DANIEL LOOKER 01/20/2011 @ 3:52pm Business Editor

On Thursday Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced grants and loan guarantees to all regions of the country to foster renewable fuel development through programs authorized by the Energy Title of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Vilsack said that progams are meant to encourage biofuel production from sources other than corn, which he said will benefit all areas of the country and strengthen the rural economy.

“It really has the potential and the opportunity to be in every part of the country,” he said.

Vilsack pointed out that the nation’s dependence on imported fuels has doubled from the presidency of Jimmy Carter, when it was 30%.

“Despite all the concern that’s been expressed about this, we need to get serious,” he said, adding that the nation can’t expect to continue to import 60% of its fuel.

Three companies will get a total of $405 million in loan guarantees under the Biorefinery Assistance Program. The biggest guarantee, for $250 million, is for a plant in western Alabama owned by Coskata, Inc, that will make 55 million gallons of ethanol annually from woody biomass. With an $80 million guarantee, Enerkem Corporation plans to make 10 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol from municipal dried, sorted solid waste. And in Vero Beach, Florida, a $75 million loan guarantee will help INEOS New Planet BioEnergy, LLC make 8 million gallons of ethanol a year from citrus and ag wastes, yard wastes and wood and municipal solid waste.

Vilsack also announced $1.6 million in grants for feasibility studies under the Rural Energy for America Program. Those 68 projects include a $40,000 study on the feasibility of delivering farm-produced biogas from 20 farms in Cayuga County, New York through a pipeline to local buinsesses. A $50,000 study will look at hydrokinetic turbine energy production by Pulse Tidal, LLC in Manatuska Susitna Borough, Alaska.

USDA also released a long list of grants it had made to existing biofuel plants through the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. Payments are based on the amount of fuel made from renewable sources other than corn starch.

One recipient is the Renewable Energy Group, Inc. of Ames, Iowa, the nation’s largest seller of biodiesel, made partly from soybean oil and other vegetable oils as well as animal fats. Fuel from vegetable oils and animal fats qualifies under the program. REG got a grant of $695,014.53

Another recipient is Corn Plus, LP, which makes ethanol from corn. But it uses solubles from distiller’s grains to power the distillation process. Corn Plus received $128,658.66.


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