Biomass research gains ground, $42M grantedWASHINGTON —

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) have earmarked $42 million to help fund eight research projects in bioenergy and biobased products, including the harvest, transport and preprocessing of biomass feedstocks.

Of the projects selected, slightly more than $5 million has been granted to the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, MT, for research in biomass feedstock production, logistics, conversion and distribution at existing forest industry facilities.

“These projects will help to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil by accelerating the development and commercialization of cleaner, alternative fuels that can power our vehicles and our industry,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. “Producing renewable fuels from biomass right here in the United States will improve our nation’s energy security and give us an innovative edge in the global market for clean energy technologies.”

In a released statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “Advances made through this research will help boost rural economies by developing and testing new processing facilities and profitable, energy-rich crops that U.S. farmers and foresters will grow.”

Renewable biomass, as specified in the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, includes pre-commercial thinnings or invasive species, which would not otherwise be used for higher-value products — such as the construction of composite panels.

In related news, the USDA said it has helped remove 86,927 tons of biomass in the national forests to produce energy, as part of its Wood-to-Energy initiative launched in October 2010. The USDA is also working with the Federal Aviation Administration on a five-year plan to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues, as well as other feedstocks, in an effort to stabilize jet fuel costs.

As part of a public-awareness education effort, the DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will host a biomass conference in July. Biomass 2011: Replace the Whole Barrel, Supply the Whole Market, will be held July 26-27 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. For information on the biomass conference, click here.

News from Europe
Meanwhile, a recent European biomass summit found that wood prices paid by furniture and other wood products manufacturers are being artificially lifted by as much as 50 percent due to subsidies paid to energy companies to burn wood waste for energy.

Findings from the summit, hosted in England by the international Furniture Industry Research Assn. (FIRA), concurred with what many in the United States are saying. “The burning of virgin wood is hitting the furniture industry hard, and is leading to increased costs in a delicate economic climate,” FIRA COO Jonny Westbrooke, said in a statement. A second meeting is already planned for “The biomass summit brought together industry leaders to discuss how we can restore the balance in timber pricing by encouraging biomass power in the UK to be produced through burning of recycled wood products or waste wood products created by furniture manufacturers.”

A second meeting was scheduled to take place May 27. The group said the next course of action would be to ensure the subsidy cap of 12.5 percent is not raised further.

Read more news about biomass:
Wood pellet fuel plant to earn $37M
FedEx inks biofuel pact with KiOR
Wood waste to jet fuel for Washington State
Changes in Biomass Rule elicit sighs of relief

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