The USDA and Department of Energy (DOE) on May 6 jointly announced up to $33 million in funding for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products, subject to annual appropriations. These projects will support the Obama Administration's comprehensive energy strategy of increasing the nation's energy, economic and national security by reducing our reliance on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases.

"As the demand for energy rises, Americans need alternative, renewable energy sources," says Roger Beachy, USDA chief scientist and director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. "The innovation and technology that these projects develop will foster a sustainable, domestic biofuels industry by broadening the nation's energy sources as well as improving the efficiency of renewable fuels."

Cathy Zoi, DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, says, "These projects will help advance the production of biofuels and related products. Supporting the development of sustainable and renewable biofuels is key to improving our energy security and addressing climate change."

USDA and DOE are issuing this joint funding announcement for several types of projects aimed at increasing the availability of alternative renewable fuels and biobased products. The projects will aim to create a diverse group of economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass. Advanced biofuels produced from these projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50%, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Section 9008(e)(3) of the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 provides direction and guidance on the technical areas addressed by the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, (BRDI). The technical areas are:

  • Feedstocks development

  • Biofuels and biobased products development

  • Biofuels development analysis

BRDI requires that each proposed project integrate all three of the technical areas. The intent of requiring integration is to encourage a collaborative problem-solving approach to all studies funded under BRDI, to facilitate formation of consortia, identify and address knowledge gaps, and accelerate the application of science and engineering for the production of sustainable biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products.

The funding opportunity is available online at http://www.grants.gov. Pre-applications are due June 7, 2010, and must be submitted electronically. Applicants who are encouraged to submit full applications will be notified by July 26, 2010.

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other administration officials joined rural stakeholders from across the country at a clean energy economy forum at the White House. The group discussed renewable energy opportunities for rural communities and the Obama Administration's efforts to help rural America build a clean energy economy that creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and enhances our position in the global economy. Earlier in the week, USDA made a wide range of energy related announcements including the availability of funds under several key energy provisions of the Farm Bill, including the Biorefinery Assistance Program, Repowering Assistance Payments to Eligible Biorefineries, Payments to Eligible Advanced Biofuel Producers, and the Rural Energy For America Program (REAP). Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson also signed a new interagency agreement to expand the work of the AgSTAR program, a joint EPA-USDA effort that helps livestock producers reduce methane emissions from their operations.