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Entries in drop-in biofuels (2)


Alliance Receives $10 Million To Research The Viability Of Using Beetles-Killed Trees As Biofuel

The Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR)– a consortium of academic, industry, and government organizations led by Colorado State University – has been awarded $10 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to research the viability of using beetle-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable source for creating biofuels.

Beetle damage in West Elk Mountains, Colorado. Photo by Jimmy Gekas.

Among the benefits of this plan would be the culling infested forests. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said earlier this month that, “Infestation 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 the bark beetle on our forest lands .”

This isn’t a new concern, and warming winters over the last several seasons have greatly exacerbated the growth of beetle populations and forest destruction.

In 2009, Matt Skoglund, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) Northern Rockies office , talked about “the tragic demise of whitebark pine trees in the Northern Rockies, primarily caused by the mountain pine beetles,” which he added were “thriving with a warmer climate.”

Skoglund continued that “the destructive paths of both the spruce  beetle in the boreal forests of Canada  and the mountain pine beetle in the Rockies, both of which, thanks to warming temperatures [were] wreaking havoc on coniferous forests and leaving millions of acres of dead trees in their wake.”

Skoglund also added that the worst case scenario was already unfolding, saying that warmer temperatures were “enabling beetles to survive at ever higher elevations” and that as a result, the whitebark pines without natural defenses, were “being slaughtered by beetles across the Northern Rockies.”

Colorado State University explained the role of extreme cold in controlling beetle populations, saying, “For winter mortality to be a significant factor, a severe freeze is necessary while the insect is in its most vulnerable stage, i.e., in the fall before the larvae have metabolized glycerols, or in late spring when the insect is molting into the pupal stage.

“For freezing temperatures to affect a large number of larvae during the middle of winter, temperatures of at least 30 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) must be sustained for at least five days.”

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U.S. Federal Agencies Spending New Funding To Bring Biofuels To A Commercially Viable Level

The Obama administration has just authorized another $30 million in federal funding to advance biofuel technologies.

A basic model of a biofuel production process. Graphic courtesy of the University of Illinois.

The $30 million in multi-agency funds will be used to match private investments to advance the development and production of commercial-scale drop-in (ready to use) biofuels for primary use in military and commercial transportation.

Last week, a multi-agency teleconference – with senior officials from the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - announced the funding.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus explained some of the provisions of the funding, saying the funding “will have to be matched at least on a one-to-one basis,” and justified the need for biofuels says that they “will reduce the need for foreign oil, which is a significant and very well-recognized military vulnerability.”

Mabus was candid in saying that right now we give our foreign oil suppliers “too much of an input on whether our ships sail, our aircraft fly, or our surface vehicles operate, and that one of the ways this happens is that every time the price of oil goes up a dollar a barrel, it costs the Navy an additional $30 million in fuel. We have faced price spikes this year going into the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

President Barrack Obama also similarly said last April that the “Department of Defense estimates that for every dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil, we incur an additional $130 million in fuel costs.” 

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