USDA Grant Aims To Convert Beetle-Killed Trees Into Biofuel

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it has awarded nearly $10 million to an academic, industry, and government consortium led by Colorado State University to study the major challenges limiting the use of insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy. The award was made by USDA’s National Institute […]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it has awarded nearly $10 million to an academic, industry, and government consortium led by Colorado State University to study the major challenges limiting the use of insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy. The award was made by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“Infestations of pine and spruce bark beetles have impacted over 42 million acres of U.S. forests since 1996, and a changing climate threatens to expand the threat from bark beetle on our forest lands,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As we take steps to fight the bark beetle, this innovative research will help take the biomass that results from bark beetle infestation and create clean, renewable energy that holds potential for job creation and promises a cleaner future for America. This is yet another reminder of the critical investments provided by the Farm Bill for agricultural research, and I urge Congress to achieve passage of a new, long term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible.”

There are many benefits to using beetle-killed wood for renewable fuel production. It requires no cultivation, circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns and likely has a highly favorable carbon balance. However, there are some challenges that have been a barrier to widespread use. It is typically located far from urban industrial centers, often in relatively inaccessible areas with challenging topography, which increases harvest and transportation costs. In addition to technical barriers, environmental impacts, social issues and local policy constraints to using beetle-kill wood and other forest residues remain largely unexplored.

“We thank the USDA for seeing the value in this CSU-led project that will turn beetle-kill wood into renewable fuels,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “Through the development of innovative technology and other solutions, this initiative will help improve forest health, create jobs and reduce the risk of intense, catastrophic wildfires. Under this grant, Colorado-based members of the Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies – Colorado State University, the Colorado Forest Service at CSU and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory – along with industry partner Cool Planet, will now demonstrate a solution to this problem.”

From Colorado State University: http://www.news.colostate.edu/release.aspx?id=7070

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