USDA, FAA extend agreement to develop biobased aviation fuel

By USDA | April 16, 2013

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has  announced that USDA is extending for five years its agreement to work with the Federal Aviation Administration and other partners to help develop a viable biofuel for the aviation industry. The secretary signed the agreement with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the Advanced Biofuels Summit at Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland.

"By continuing to work together to produce American made 'drop-in' aviation fuels from renewable feedstocks, we will create jobs and economic opportunity in rural America, lessen America's reliance on foreign oil and develop a thriving biofuels industry that will benefit commercial and military enterprises," Vilsack said. "USDA is pleased to partner with the FAA in our quest to develop alternatives to fossil-based fuel, which is critical to reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment."

"Through the use of sustainable alternative jet fuels, we are showing the world that we can come together to solve our greatest environmental challenges," LaHood said. "In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called on us to work together to reduce carbon emissions—developing these alternative jet fuels will do just that, while creating jobs and helping airlines save money on fuel."

The new agreement, which includes partners from the commercial aviation sector, follows the initial success of the 2010-2012 "Farm to Fly" initiative. It also supports President Obama's commitment to clean energy technology, energy independence and job creation and is part of USDA's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. The federal government and its partners hope to support the annual production of 1 billion gallons of drop-in aviation biofuel by 2018.

In July 2010, USDA, Airlines for America Inc. (A4A) and the Boeing Co. (Boeing) signed a resolution formalizing their commitment to work together on the "Farm to Fly" initiative. "Farm to Fly" builds upon the work of USDA's Regional Biomass Research Centers, which are helping to develop a robust, advanced biofuels industry by working with industry partners to produce energy-producing feedstocks within different regions. The renewed agreement focuses on future goals—such as designating personnel, evaluating current and potential feedstock types and systems, developing multiple feedstock supply chains, developing state and local public-private teams, communicating results, and issuing periodic reports.

For a copy of the most recent report on the "Farm to Fly" efforts, see Agriculture and Aviation: Partners in Prosperity, Parts I and II at this link.

In October, 2010 USDA and the FAA jointly announced a three-year agreement to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other "green" feedstocks in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Under this partnership, the agencies have combined their experience in research, policy analysis and air transportation to explore the different kinds of feedstocks that could be processed by bio-refineries to produce jet fuels. Additional accomplishments in developing aviation biofuels include:


Feedstock Readiness Level Tool Developed: The USDA and FAA developed the Feedstock Readiness Tool (FSRL) for the airline industry to track progress on the development and availability of agricultural and forest feedstocks that will be used to produce renewable jet fuels. The FSRL can identify gaps in aviation biofuel supply chains due to delays in the development of the feedstocks to supply a particular conversion process, or the development of a fuel conversion process as a market for a feedstock.

Regional Research Centers: The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is funding six regional integrated Coordinated Agricultural Projects targeting enhanced rural prosperity and National energy security through the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of advanced biofuels and biobased products from non-food dedicated biomass feedstocks such as perennial grasses, sorghum, energy cane, oilseed crops, and woody biomass. Three of the projects have a focus on the production of aviation fuel.

System for Advanced Hardwood Biofuels in the Pacific Northwest is led by the University of Washington is using purpose-grown hardwoods as the feedstock for the production of gasoline and aviation fuel.

Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance: A New Vista for Green Fuels, Chemicals, and Environmentally Preferred Products is led by Washington State University and is working with the regions forest products industry to convert waste from logging and thinning operations into butanol, renewable aviation fuel, and other industrial chemicals.

Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems led by the University of Tennessee is using switchgrass and woody biomass to produce butanol and aviation fuel.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.