‘Algae’ and ‘Grasses’ May Be Used to Reach Mandated Biofuels Goals for 2022, Says Obama Administration

By Nicholas Ballasy | October 21, 2010 | 8:00 PM EDT

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, Wednesday, July 21, 2010 (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Democratic governor of Iowa, said that for the Obama administration to reach its goal of producing 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel every year by 2022, it may blend algae and grass with gasoline.

Ethanol, gasoline blended with corn alcohol, is a readily available biofuel.

The biofuels push was mandated by Congress through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and it is partly designed to reduce U.S. consumption of oil. The 2008 Farm Bill established the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which is intended to help the U.S. attain the 36-billion-gallon-a-year biofuels production goal.

“We would expect and anticipate several hundreds of millions of dollars being utilized in BCAP,” Vilsack said at a “newsmakers” event at the National Press Club on Thursday. “We announced and indicated that $281-and-a-half million in the assistance programs -- all of this money has been appropriated and authorized, so it’s not a matter of going back to Congress and asking for more resources to do what we are announcing we’re going to do.”

Vilsack continued, “It is our belief that in order for this industry to really become rooted, in order for it to meet the 36-billion-gallon threshold, and the requirement that 21 billion gallons of it be advanced biofuel, and that all of the benefits that we’ve talked about accrue to all parts of the county, you’re looking at using a wide variety of feedstocks, depending upon the strength and area that you’re talking about.”

Vilsack said these “feedstocks,” which refer to crops or products that can be converted into bioenergy, could include “algae” and “crop residue.”

“It may be woody biomass in one area,” he said.  “It may be perennial grasses in another area. It may be crop residue in another area. It may be algae in some areas. So, what we want is a whole host and a diversification because with diversification you strengthen the capacity of the industry to provide the 36 billion gallons that we’ve set as a threshold.”

The Obama administration’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a report, Regional Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022, which outlined ways the Department plans to reach the government-mandated 36- billion gallon goal which was initially created by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The 2008 Farm Bill established the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) to assist “agricultural and forest land owners and operators with the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of eligible material for use in a biomass conversion facility,” and to “support the establishment and production of eligible crops for conversion to bioenergy in selected BCAP project areas.”