US government pledges further support for aviation biofuels development with new five-year agreement
Tue 16 Apr 2013 – Following what it describes as the initial success of the 2010-2012 ‘Farm to Fly’ initiative, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it is extending its agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and commercial aviation interests for a further five years. The partners are aiming to support the production of one billion gallons of drop-in aviation biofuel by 2018. The renewed focus will be 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. The agreement was signed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
“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,” Agriculture Secretary Vilsack said at an advanced biofuels conference in Maryland. “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.”
Responding, LaHood commented: “Through the use of sustainable alternative jet fuels, we are showing the world that we can come together to solve our greatest environmental challenges. 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 initial ‘Farm to Fly’ was formalised in July 2010 by the USDA, Airlines for America (A4A) and Boeing, with a particular emphasis on supporting rural communities in the move towards advanced biofuels production. Since then, the USDA has set up Regional Biomass Research Centers that are working with industry partners to produce energy-producing feedstocks in different parts of the country.
The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is funding six regional integrated Coordinated Agricultural Projects to develop systems for the sustainable production of advanced aviation biofuels and bio-based products from non-food dedicated biomass feedstocks such as perennial grasses, sorghum, energy cane, oilseed crops and woody biomass. In October 2010, the USDA and FAA announced a three-year agreement to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other green feedstocks.
The USDA and FAA have also developed the Feedstock Readiness Tool 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 tool has the facility to 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.
Given US airlines currently consume around 18 billion gallons of jet fuel per year, the one billion gallon target of the ‘Farm to Fly’ initiative represents an approximate 5% use of aviation biofuels by 2018.
“A4A is pleased to join with the departments of agriculture and transportation and with other aviation industry partners to build on the successes of our original ‘Farm to Fly’ initiative,” commented Nancy Young, A4A’s Vice President of Environmental Affairs. “We’ve made tremendous progress in the development of sustainable alternative aviation fuels through an array of initiatives, but have more work to do to make such fuels commercially viable. By working together in ‘Farm to Fly 2.0’, we will be able to marshal appropriate resources to increase domestic energy security, support US jobs and rural development, and further reduce emissions.”