Update: What Vilsack Announced in Seattle

September 28, 2011 04:20 AM

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Ag secretary expected to unveil first major airport use of aviation biofuel

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In what USDA openly called a "significant announcement," Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced grants to furthern research in biofuels, not that the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) will be the first major user of aviation biofuels, apparently made from camelina, a member of the mustard family.

Vilsack announced grants to several universities and others regarding the feedstock production used to make aviation biofuel. Link. Clearly, today's announcement doesn't match what many expected to be a "significant" announcement, contacts noted.

Background: Last month, Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer warned that camelina is facing a challenge with farmers due to wheat prices. "The biggest challenge of all is the price of wheat," Schweitzer said, according to the Billings Gazette. "I’m not going to wish for cheap wheat to get the camelina acres up, but that’s what it’s going to take." The article also noted another issue that is holding up camelina as a fuel. Scott Johnson of Sustainable Oils said his company has been waiting for camelina to become certified as a jet fuel for commercial airlines. The fuel has been proven in commercial airline tests for a couple of years and has powered four types of Air Force jets, but certification has been slow coming.

Washington State University (WSU) is one of the grant recipients, and they will focus on making aviation jet fuel from slash — the unusable branches and bark left after lumber is harvested — said WSU professors Norman Lewis and Michael Wolcott, co-directors of the WSU project. The process also could use scrap wood destined for construction landfills.

Vilsack drew a distinction between this grant and the federal loan guarantees that went to California solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra, which recently filed for bankruptcy. Vilsack said the efforts announced today are grants for research and are part of a collaborative effort between universities and industry. The grants are from funds already appropriated by Congress, he noted.

Comments:  This announcement by Vilsack is even less significant than the media advisory issued earlier this week for today's event made it sound. Again, it shows Vilsack and others in the admintsiraiton just do not understand the meaning of significant or have a far different definition of what "significant" is.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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