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Acting Under Secretary Discusses USDA's Role in Building Support for Aviation Biofuels

By Doug O' Brien, Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development, on July 2, 2013

Last week, in Chicago, I had the honor to hear from and meet some of the leaders in the nation’s aviation industry as they assembled to issue a new report showing a clear path toward cleaner, more economical and more secure energy alternatives through the increased use of advanced aviation biofuels developed in the Midwest.

Representatives in aviation, academia, policy organizations, city, state and federal government and National governmental organizations met to release recommendations and findings from MASBI – the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative. 

MASBI produced the recommendations and findings following a yearlong analysis of the benefits that could be delivered from a robust sustainable aviation biofuels industry in the Midwest. MASBI is a coalition led by United Airlines, Boeing, Honeywell’s UOP, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Clean Energy Trust.

Working with a broad array of stakeholders from more than 40 public and private organizations, MASBI is developing a comprehensive feasibility study and actionable roadmap to accelerate the development and commercialization of the Midwest advanced biofuels industry.

I was pleased to share with these representatives the work that USDA Rural Development is doing to help build a viable biofuel for the aviation industry.   For example, over the last four years, USDA has made historic investments in rural America that are designed to drive job growth and build a better future in rural communities.   This includes building up the renewable energy sector and supporting the manufacture of innovative new biobased products, which bring together agriculture and manufacturing to support job creation.

We have an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Department of the Navy and Department of Energy to develop advanced, drop-in biofuels for aviation and marine use. And through our recently renewed Farm to Fly Agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration and commercial sector partners, USDA is working across the supply chain to accelerate the development of commercial scale, cost-competitive aviation biofuels that will create competition in the marketplace and reduce costs with a cleaner alternative to jet fuel.

Under the agreement, USDA has aligned its efforts to enable commercially viable, sustainable bio-Jet Fuel supply chains in the U.S. that are able to support the goal of one billion gallons of bio-Jet Fuel production capacity and use for the Aviation Enterprise by 2018.  This is exciting and it helps point the way toward America’s new BioEconomy.

It is an economy that will, in large part, be rural-centered due to the proximity to the biomass that will feed the production and will help drive economic development in every state in the country.  After all, rural America has a long history of innovation and a strong commitment to conservation.  And the resources and talents of rural areas and residents will be more important than ever as we face the challenges posed by climate change.

USDA Rural Development and other USDA agencies are poised to do their part to help build clean, renewable energy projects to help meet the challenge of a changing climate and support the President’s Climate Action plan announced earlier this week.

For me, MASBI is a fantastic example of what needs to be done to meet a number of this country’s imperatives: tackling climate change, ensuring national security, and creating economic opportunity. Public private partnerships are a necessary strategy to meet these historic challenges.

To learn more about how USDA is encouraging development of renewable energy click here.

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