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USDA advisoray recommends algae for funding !! 25

 A study making its way around the Agriculture Department raises doubts about the prospects for biofuels made from crop residue and other types of plant cellulose and calls for shifting the focus of government research funding.   A USDA advisory committee report suggested putting more money into algae and oil crops, which are alternatives to making ethanol from corn stalks or grasses.       'After two decades of research without a sustainable technical breakthrough to make cellulosic ethanol competitive, it appears that it is time to re-evaluate the research,' the report said.   One of the biggest hurdles to commercializing cellulosic ethanol has been the challenge of finding economical and practical ways to harvest, transport and store the massive amounts of biomass that would be needed.   The report said the government should see if logistical challenges can be overcome by focusing on using the biomass as a feedstock for generating electricity.   A Poet LLC project proposed for Emmetsburg would consume 770 tons of corn cobs, husks and leaves daily. The USDA is offering subsidies of $45 a ton to help cover biomass costs, but the program has no funding after 2012.   'It's just overwhelming, the logistics' involved in making cellulosic ethanol, said Bill Horan, a Rockwell City farmer who is on the 10-member advisory committee. 'We think there is maybe more potential in algae right now than cellulosics.'   The Obama administration has been pushing cellulosic ethanol as an answer to concerns about using food crops for biofuels and a way of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.   Two projects are under development in Iowa that would make ethanol from corn stover ? Poet's and one recently proposed by DuPont, parent of Pioneer Hi-Bred, and Danisco of Denmark. The Iowa Power Fund last week agreed to negotiate with DuPont-Danisco on a $19.5 million grant requested by the joint venture for the $350 million project. No site has been announced.   Poet has been testing harvesting methods and recently started work on a 22-acre storage site with a capacity for 23,000 tons of stover.   A third company, Fiberight LLC, is planning to make ethanol at Blairstown from municipal garbage and paper-plant waste, feedstocks that have neither the logistical challenges nor acquisition costs of corn residue.   Industry officials insist that their biggest obstacle isn't the logistics or the technical problems of making the ethanol but rather a lack of capital.   But the logistical challenges are 'legitimate issues that need to be solved and the USDA ought to be about the business of getting them solved,' said Brent Erickson of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.   The USDA advisory committee's work was mandated by the 2008 farm bill. In addition to Horan, the panel's membership includes academics, scientists and consultants to business and government.   The report was provided to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and congressional committees, and the panel's chairwoman, Carol Keiser-Long, recently discussed it with representatives of the USDA agencies that handle agricultural research. 'They've all read it,' she said.   Asked for comment on the report, the USDA issued a statement saying research is needed 'to increase efficiency and productivity of all crops, crop residues, biomass and other substances.'   Vilsack has designated five research centers to study regional biomass issues, the department noted.
Mon November 15 2010 04:13:04 AM by Jacintha cellulosic ethanol  |  research funding for algae biofuels 2376 views
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