President Obama unveiled on Tueday a $510 million federal investment program to help develop advanced biofuels that can be used by commercial and military ships and airplanes.
The White House said the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy will spend the money in partnership with private sector developers over the next three years. Each department will allocate $170 million to the program.
“We’re partnering with the private sector to speed development of next-generation biofuels that will help us continue to take steps towards energy independence and strengthen communities across our country,” Obama said.
He also said the program help create more U.S. jobs. This transportation fuels plan comes as the president is proposing new transportation spending to boost employment in a weak economy, and selling his ideas on a Midwest bus tour. It also follows new federal rules to cut fuel use by commercial trucks.
The country now lacks manufacturing capacity for those fuels to be used in jet aircraft and ocean-going vessels. The White House said the program will aim to “accelerate the production of bio-based jet and diesel fuel.”
The three departments have a plan to jointly build or retrofit several biofuel plants and refineries. Although they aim to produce advanced hydrocarbon fuels derived from biomass, the plan centers on “drop-in” jet and diesel that can go into existing fuel tanks, refining and distribution networks.
That does not include ethanol used for passenger cars, which is not a “drop-in” fuel and in the U.S. largely uses corn as its main feedstock. The agencies said their plan will have “no significant impact” on farm commodities used for food.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said that “by building a national biofuels industry, we are creating construction jobs, refinery jobs and economic opportunity in rural communities.” In addition, “every gallon of biofuel consumed near where it is produced cuts transportation costs and, for the military, improves energy security,” he said.
The program calls for at least a one-to-one cost match from private industry for the $510 million the federal offices will spend. “These pioneer plants will demonstrate advanced technologies to produce infrastructure-compatible, drop-in renewable fuels from America’s abundant biomass resources,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.