Via the joint Biomass Research and Development Initiative; the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy, are awarding $41 across 13 different biofuel development projects.

These include the Quad County Corn Cooperative, which will receive $4.25 million to refit an existing ethanol plant to add value to its byproducts, opening up new potential markets and revenue sources for the cooperative and $7 million for the University of Wisconsin that will use dairy manure and fiber produced from it to result in fertilizer and ethanol, plus using oils from crops as the basis for biodiesel fuel to power farm equipment.

Further, $6.85 million will go to the Cooper Tire and Rubber Company, which will result in the farming of Guayule rubber producing shrubs, with the rubber byproduct used in future tire construction as well as conversion into jet fuel. Another $7 million is designated for the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, which will incorporate oil based crops such as canola, rapeseed, camelina and mustard, for enhanced farming and production processing in the western eco-regions for conversion into biodiesel and jet fuel.

An additional $6 million is set aside for the University of Hawaii, which aims to optimize the growing of various grasses in the Aloha state, including napier grass and sugar cane, for processing into bio diesel and jet fuel.

In addition to all this, the USDA and DOE are also disbursing $10 million for eight additional research projects that will use genetic mapping to help advance the cause of sustainable biofuel production. These projects, which will be conducted by various universities around the country, aim to analyze feedstock durability, tolerance to environmental stresses and the potential for them to be used for energy production on large scales.

Given that biofuel production, particularly ethanol, has drawn criticism in some quarters, since crops are being channeled away from food production toward fuel use, while still having a significant environmental impact, due to pollutants produced from processing, these new initiatives could present some interesting findings regarding biofuel development and sustainability.

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