The biofuel industry in Washington will get a boost today when US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announces in Seattle that $80 million in federal grants will be provided to UW and WSU to study how poplar trees and byproducts from the timber industry can be transformed into fuel. WSU and the UW will each receive $40 million. Grants of between $15 million and $25 million are going to each of three other projects led by institutions in TN, LA, and IA.
Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture: “This is an opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and drive economic development in rural communities across America by building the framework for a competitively-priced, American-made biofuels industry. Public-private partnerships like these will drive our nation to develop a national biofuels economy that continues to help us grow and out-compete the rest of the world while moving our nation toward a clean energy economy.”
Michael Young, University of Washington President: “This represents groundbreaking work in developing renewable energy and is exactly what universities like ours should be doing to help the nation become more energy independent. If successful, the effort will help revitalize the Pacific Northwest’s forestry sector by establishing a sustainable advanced biofuels industry that supports both large and small forest landowners and generates jobs in rural communities. It is a very smart investment by the federal government in the university, which in turn helps secure the future. It is exactly the kind of investment our nation needs right now.”
Norman G. Lewis, Washington State University Regents Professor and director of the Institute for Biological Chemistry: “We believe we can begin to resolve the issues that have prevented wood-based biofuels and other petrochemical substitutes from being economically viable with some new strategies and the diversity of skills represented on the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) team. If we are successful, the potential to begin to replace the natural resources jobs lost in the region over the past several years is very high.”
Richard Gustafson, UW Principal Investigator: “These grants will help us develop our own regional industry and create jobs,” says Richard Gustafson, principal investigator of the UW-led grant and a UW professor of forest resources. “For the UW-led grant alone, a successful demonstration project over the next five years will lay the foundation to build five commercial biorefineries and cultivate 400,000 acres of poplars, resulting in 1,500 direct jobs, mostly in rural areas.”
Dan Fulton, Weyerhaeuser president and CEO: “The consortium is designed to capitalize on the unique contributions of the participants, and Weyerhaeuser is pleased to be part of that. Sustainability is absolutely critical to the successful production of feedstocks and aviation biofuel on an economical scale, and we’re proud to bring more than a century of forest science and innovative solutions to the effort.”