Cantwell: Investment in UW-WSU Biofuels Projects a Key Step to ‘Bolster Groundbreaking Research and Create Local Jobs’
In letters to WSU and UW, Cantwell applauds USDA investment as key step to biofuel research and jobs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised an $80 million investment in Washington state’s biofuel research, in a letter to the presidents of University of Washington and Washington State University. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the two grants to WSU and UW during an event Wednesday at SeaTac Airport.
“Your schools’ awards are by far the largest of the five public-private partnerships to receive these grants across the nation – a reflection on the pioneering work being done in Washington state,” Cantwell wrote in letters to UW and WSU. “Every step in the process of making alternative fuels can mean real economic opportunity and new jobs for Washington state. Together these projects will bolster groundbreaking research, create local jobs, catalyze the commercialization of biofuels, and help reduce our nation’s dangerous overreliance on fossil fuels. Congratulations on this major step forward.”
Cantwell has been a leader on working to establish a biofuels industry in Washington state. On July 28, Cantwell, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation, headed a subcommittee hearing to examine efforts to develop alternative aviation fuels, the impact of fuel prices on the industry, and obstacles that must be overcome to facilitate their commercialization and adoption throughout the industry.
Cantwell, along with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), recently introduced legislation to extend the length of contracts between the Department of Defense and biofuel producers from the current limit of 5 years to 15 years. Representative Inslee (D-WA) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Allowing for longer-term contracts with the largest single consumer of energy in the country would help companies in Washington state to obtain the financing they need to grow their operations. On June 24, 2011, Cantwell reintroduced bipartisan legislation to reform and extend the tax incentive for domestic biodiesel production which includes qualified aviation jet fuel.
Starting in 2004, Cantwell has worked to bring together Washington businesses, farmers, investors, and fuel consumers to help create a Washington biofuels industry. In 2005, Cantwell brokered a landmark agreement for the Port of Seattle and its clients to buy one million gallons of biodiesel per year. In addition, Senator Cantwell helped facilitate the construction of one of the biggest biodiesel facilities in the United States in Grays Harbor, as well as secured funding to help Washington state ferries figure out if they could use locally-produced biofuels. In 2007, she helped author the Renewable Fuels Standard, which, along with increasing vehicle fuel economy standards, are the only two policies proven to reduce our nation’s dangerous overdependence on foreign oil.
“We have an incredible opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and drive economic development in rural communities across America by continuing to build the framework for a competitively-priced, American-made biofuels industry,” said Vilsack. “Over the past two years, USDA has worked to help our nation develop a national biofuels economy that continues to help us out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world while moving our nation toward a clean energy economy.”
The grants announced by Vilsack in Seattle today came through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The projects will address needs across regional supply chains and will complement existing bioenergy efforts across government, academia, and the private sector.
The research team from the University of Washington received $40 million to focus on using sustainably grown woody energy crops to produce biogasoline and renewable aviation fuel. A consortium of eight organizations will work throughout the entire woody biomass supply chain to promote the financing, construction and operation of multiple biorefineries, while reaching out to landowners and land managers, as well as regional K-12 and college students and faculty, to foster workforce development opportunities across the supply chain.
A research team led by Washington State University received $40 million to convert closed timber mills into bioenergy development centers, improving the economic potential of rural communities affected by the downturn in timber production. The team will focus on feedstock development, sustainable forest production and establishing new methods to identify the most promising plant lines for biofuel conversion. The project aims to develop a regional source of renewable aviation fuel for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Cantwell’s letter to University Presidents is below:
September 28, 2011
Elson Floyd Michael Young
Washington State University University of Washington
P.O. Box 641048 301 Gerberding Hall
Pullman, WA 99164 Seattle, WA 98195
Dear Presidents Floyd and Young:
I want to congratulate your universities for each being awarded one of five Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Project grants by the United States Department of Agriculture. Your schools’ awards are by far the largest of the five public-private partnerships to receive these grants across the nation – a reflection on the pioneering work being done in Washington state.
Every step in the process of making alternative fuels can mean real economic opportunity and new jobs for Washington state. I am proud that our state’s leading universities are on the cutting edge of biofuels research to help make this opportunity a reality. Washington State University’s Northwest Advanced Renewable Alliance will research all aspects of the development of aviation biofuels from wood biomass in partnerships with other Washington State companies, including Weyerhaeuser. The University of Washington’s System for Advanced Biofuels Production from Woody Biomass in the Pacific Northwest will focus on development of all the stages of biofuels production from regionally sourced woody biomass. Together these projects will bolster groundbreaking research, create local jobs, catalyze the commercialization of biofuels, and help reduce our nation’s dangerous overreliance on fossil fuels.
The investment announced today will leverage the resources of our entire region, helping build up a biofuels supply chain and boosting clean energy job growth across the nation. Today’s award is a validation of the investment and progress your two universities and Washington State have made to become national leaders in advanced biofuels research, development, and production. I was pleased to support your efforts to win these two competitive grants to ensure Washington remains a leader in this promising field that is so important to addressing our nation’s most difficult economic, environmental, and national security challenges.
Congratulations on this major step forward.
United States Senator
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