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Federal Agencies Push Renewable Energy, Truck Fuel Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a renewable energy initiative to boost fuel production from renewable sources, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to move forward with its fuel efficiency standard for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the National Press Club that the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) is a “national imperative” to assist the biofuels industry, reports AFP.

Authorized in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, BCAP provides assistance to businesses involved in the production of eligible renewable biomass crops. Producers could receive payments of up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing eligible perennial crops. They also can receive payments for up to five years for annual or non-woody perennial crops and up to 15 years for woody perennial crops.

BCAP also provides matching payments for the transportation of certain eligible materials that are sold to qualified biomass conversion facilities. The facilities convert the materials into heat, power, bio-based products or advanced biofuels.

Vilsack also jointly announced with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a five-year agreement to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other “green” feedstocks.

The partnership will develop a tool to evaluate the status of different components of a feedstock supply chain, such as availability of biomass from farms and forests, the potential of that biomass for production of jet fuel, and the length of time it will take to ramp up to full-scale production.

The agencies already have existing programs and collaborative agreements with private and public partners and resources to help biorefiners develop cost-effective production plans for jet aircraft biofuels.

According to a new biofuels report from the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), replacing more petroleum with cost-competitive domestic biofuels reduces crude oil imports, which will lower energy prices.

Meanwhile, the EPA and DOT are expected to announce that they are moving ahead with fuel-efficiency rules for medium- and heavy-duty trucks for 2014-1018  model years, reports NPR.

The EPA and DOT sent draft rules to the White House in August that would for the first time cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from heavy trucks and buses.

The plan is expected to cut GHG emissions and fuel consumption from long-haul trucks by about 20 percent, with an overall reduction of 10 percent to 20 percent in fuel consumption and emissions based on the size of the vehicle, according to the article.

The rules will cover big rig tractor-trailers, “vocational trucks” such as garbage trucks and transit and school buses, and work trucks such as heavy-duty versions of the Ford F-Series, Dodge Ram and Chevrolet Silverado.

As part of President Obama’s push to increase vehicle fuel efficiency across the board, vehicles also are required to reach a fuel efficiency of 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016, and plans are in the works to push standards to 47 to 62 mpg by 2025, according to NPR.

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