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Friday, 10 October 2014 00:00

Increase in Hyrbid Purchases Possible with Environment-Friendly Fuel Plant in Louisiana

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on October 3 a $91 million loan guarantee to help finance an innovative advanced bio-fuel plant in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.

"This partnership is the latest example of the Obama Administration's continuing support for innovative, home-grown energy sources," Vilsack said.

"USDA's support for renewable energy projects like this helps create jobs in rural areas, promotes U.S. energy independence, and leads to further expansion of the growing and increasingly significant bio-economy."

USDA has reached an agreement with Silicon Valley Bank to provide a $91 million Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantee to Cool Planet to help the company finish construction on a bio-fuel plant at the Port of Alexandria in Louisiana.

This unique partnership will create jobs, produce advanced domestic fuel and reduce greenhouse gases.

The average fuel economy of new cars sold in the US went down from 25.8 mpg to 25.3 mpg in September, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research (UMTRI).  An increase in sales of light trucks and SUVs could be responsible for the dip.

Still, the national average is up 5.2 mpg since UMTRI started tracking it in October 2007, according to reports by John Beltz Snyder of The group's Eco-Driving Index measures average emissions per distance driven (with a lag of two months) and shows that figure at an all-time low in July of 2014.

People are noticing the benefits of Hybrids, and are more likely than ever to invest in one. Studies by UMTRI have also found that those who own hybrids are content- 83 percent plan to buy them in the future.

Out of the 83 percent, "a third said they'll be purchasing a plug-in hybrid next, while three percent will opt for a fully electric vehicle. Thirty-three percent of hybrid buyers cited environmental impact as the reason for their purchase, with 28 percent choosing them for long-term costs and 25 percent to use less energy. Price points are a big part of the average person’s decision to buy a hybrid," according to Beltz.

Experts predict an increase in the number of hybrid investments, thanks to the domestic Cool Planet and USDA partnership, which will hopefully lower fuel prices.

The Cool Planet facilities will produce approximately 8 million to 10 million gallons of reformate per year at full capacity. Often referred to as a "drop-in" fuel, reformate is an ingredient in gasoline and jet fuel that can be added during the regular refinery process. Many biofuels, like ethanol, are fuel additives that are instead blended into a finished product to oxygenate fuel. Reformate enhances the energy content of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Pine chips will be the feedstock source for the Cool Planet facility, but the company can use almost any type of renewable cellulosic material.

Another benefit of Cool Planet's facility is that it will produce biochar, a bioenergy byproduct that has been noted for its ability to sequester carbon and potentially reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

In early September, Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA has issued a conditional commitment on a $105 million loan guarantee to Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels, LLC to build a bio-refinery in Nevada to produce renewable jet fuel from municipal solid waste.
USDA has awarded conditional commitments for other plants in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Oregon. Sapphire Energy has paid off its USDA loan for a plant now operating in New Mexico.

USDA's loan commitment to Cool Planet is being financed from the remainder of the Biorefinery Assistance Program funds authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. An additional project financed from these funds will be announced later this month. Congress reauthorized and extended the program in the 2014 Farm Bill. It also expanded the program to include bio-based renewable chemicals and bio-based product manufacturing.

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