Today at the White House, the Departments of the Navy, Agriculture and Energy announced new contracts to construct and commission biorefineries capable of producing drop-in, military-compatible fuels that can be used in our most advanced warfighting platforms and by commercial industry. Together, the three companies receiving the awards will produce more than 100 million gallons of military grade fuel – at a price that’s competitive with fossil fuel.
The awards, made under Defense Production Act (DPA) authorities, mark important progress on the President’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP calls upon the Administration to leverage partnerships between the private and public sectors to deploy cleaner fuels. It also specifically tasks the Departments of the Navy, Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to accelerate the development of cost-competitive advanced biofuels for use by the military and commercial sectors.
The biorefinery projects will be initiated this year, with fuel production expected to begin as early as 2016. That means American jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, and more progress toward replacing imported crude oil with secure, renewable fuels made here in the U.S. Emerald Biofuels will build a refinery on the Gulf coast that uses waste fats and greases; Fulcrum BioEnergy will build a refinery in McCarran, Nevada that utilizes municipal solid waste; and Red Rock Biofuels will build a refinery in Lakeview, Oregon that processes woody biomass.
This success story builds on previous efforts across the government to promote the development and use of advanced biofuels. The Navy has tested and certified their entire fleet to operate on these fuels and in 2012 demonstrated a carrier strike group during the Rim of the Pacific naval exercise in which all the air craft and conventional ships operated for two days on drop-in biofuels. Through its Biomass Crop Assistance Program and Loan Program, USDA has supported farmers and the construction of new advanced biofuel refineries including an algae biofuels project in New Mexico and a first of a kind commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel refinery in Florida. DOE has also been a major champion of advanced biofuel technology through the Bio Energy Technology Office and earlier this month celebrated the grand opening of the POET Project LIBERTY, the nation’s second commercial-scale cellulosic refinery.
Biofuels have an important role to play in fostering rural economic development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, all while increasing our energy security. Today’s announcement is an important step forward in accomplishing these goals, and in implementing the President’s Climate Action Plan.
Kate Brandt is Federal Environmental Executive at the White House Council of Environmental Quality.