Government funds biorefinery developments

To increase the production and use of renewable-energy sources, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting federal grants for biorefinery projects.

One such project, the Biorefinery Assistance Program, provides guaranteed loans for the development and construction of commercial-scale biorefineries or for the retrofitting of existing facilities (including, but not limited to, wood-products facilities and sugar mills) for the development of advanced biofuels.

“Renewable-energy production is a key to sustainable economic development in rural America,” said U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack. “We must rapidly escalate production of biofuels to meet the 2022 Federal Renewable Fuels standard goal, and much of this biofuel will come from feedstocks produced by America’s farmers and ranchers. This will be an increasing source of income for rural America and it represents an opportunity to increase the number of green jobs available not only to farm families, but also to residents of rural communities.”

Vilsack specifically mentioned feedstocks – crops or products that can be used as or converted into biofuels and bioenergy. Common feedstocks include soybeans and rapeseed while alga and ethanol byproducts are emerging feedstocks.

Farmers of these and other sources of feedstock can benefit from biorefinery developments because of increased market opportunity.
However, the advancement of this renewable energy comes with a price tag.

According to a blog at
Biofuels Digest, “Because biofuels projects cost in the hundred of millions, the “family member” guarantor of choice in the U.S. is Uncle Sam – the one with the balance sheet and the policy interest to make commercial biofuels happen.”

But programs such as the Biorefinery Assistance Program expand the promise for biofuels in America.

Program Information:
  • Eligible applicants: Individuals, tribal entities, state-government entities, local-government entities, corporations, farm cooperatives, farmer cooperative organizations, associations of agricultural producers, national laboratories, institutions of higher education, rural-electric cooperatives, public-power entities and other groupings of any of the previous entities
  • Loan limits: Maximum of $250 million; no minimum requirement; maximum loan will be reduced by the amount of other direct federal funding the eligible borrower receives for the same project
Eligible projects:
  • Projects must be located in a rural area (50,000 or less population)
  • Projects must use “eligible technology,” which is defined as either:
  1. A technology that is being adopted in available commercial-scale operation of a biorefinery that produces an advanced biofuel; or
  2. A technology not described in the previous paragraph that has been demonstrated to have technical and economic potential for commercial application in a biorefinery that produces an advanced biofuel
In 2009, this initiative, and other provisions within the overarching program to stimulate energy development, funded 1,557 projects in 50 states, the territory of Puerto Rico and the Western Pacific Islands, expecting to reduce greenhouse gases by 1.5 million metric tons of carbon. These investments will generate a projected equivalent of 1.5 million kilowatts of electricity.

As America works to develop a clean-energy economy, the use of programs like the Biorefinery Assistance Program, is vital. This program, and others modeled like it, provide rural, green jobs and propel us toward energy independence. They also provide more economic incentive for American farmers to continue the production of feedstock crops.

*Photo obtained from

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