U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced new funding available to pursue new innovations in biofuels technologies, increase production of U.S. biofuels, and strengthen American energy security. The USDA, Navy and Department of Energy are announcing $30 million in federal funding to match private investments in commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels. The Energy Department is also announcing a total of $32 million in new investments for earlier stage research that will continue to drive technological breakthroughs and additional cost reductions in the industry.

Advancing Commercial-Scale Drop-In Biofuel Substitutes for Diesel and Jet Fuel

In his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future released in March 2011, President Obama set a goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025 and laid out an all-of-the-above energy plan to achieve that goal by developing domestic oil and gas energy resources, increasing energy efficiency, and speeding development of biofuels and other alternatives. Domestic oil and gas production has increased each year the President has been in office. At the same time we continue to take additional steps to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. As part of that effort, the Blueprint directed the Navy, USDA and DOE to collaborate to support commercialization of “drop-in” biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel. Competitively-priced drop-in biofuels will help improve America’s energy security, meeting the fuel needs of U.S. armed forces, as well as the commercial aviation and shipping sectors. Today’s announcement of an available $30 million in funding builds on that commitment, helping to speed the development of biofuels for military and commercial transportation that will reduce the need for foreign oil and strengthen rural America.  The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is available HERE.

Made possible through the Defense Production Act (DPA), this funding opportunity enhances national security by supporting the creation and commercial viability of a defense-critical domestic biofuels industry to advance alternatives to petroleum. DPA is an authority that dates back to 1950 and has been used to boost industries such as steel, aluminum, titanium, semiconductors, beryllium, and radiation-hardened electronics.

“DPA is a critical component of strengthening our national security, and energy is a national security issue,” stated Secretary Mabus. “Our reliance on foreign oil is a significant military vulnerability and it would be irresponsible not to address it. Pursuing a viable, domestic alternative is the best way to preserve the budget for operational necessities like training and shipbuilding, and this funding opportunity is an important step in accelerating an economically self-sufficient alternative fuels market.”

The FOA comprises a two-phased approach, with government and industry sharing in the cost. In Phase 1, applicants will submit a design package and comprehensive business plan for a commercial-scale biorefinery, identify and secure project sites and take additional required steps spelled out in the announcement. Awardees selected to continue into Phase 2 will submit additional information for the construction or retrofit of a biorefinery.

Agencies participating in this initiative will make additional funding requests to Congress to support the initiative, including President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request of $110 million.

“This is an important time for the biofuels industry to step up and show the Department of the Navy how they have developed biofuels that are certified and certifiable for military use,” stated Secretary Vilsack. “The ability for U.S. industry to make, create and innovate has never been more important to our national and energy security. I know that through this DPA effort the nation will be able to harvest an aviation biofuels industry to satisfy the world’s needs, not just our U.S. military.”