U.S. government launches major biofuel initiative aimed to increase use in private sector

As part of the Obama administration's efforts to decrease American dependence on oil imports, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy, have announced that $30 million in government funding will go toward matching private investments aimed at bringing the biofuel industry from the testing phase to full-scale commercial production.

The most recent program, funded by the Defense Production Act (DPA), is a continuation of the Obama administration's desire to cut foreign oil use by one-third before the year 2025 as stated in the "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future" report published in March 2011. While domestic oil and natural gas production has increased, especially through the controversial practice known as fracking, government officials stress that renewable energies remain at the top of their priority list.

"By pursuing new processes and technologies for producing next-generation biofuels, we are working to accelerate innovation in a critical and growing sector that will help to improve U.S. energy security and protect our air and water," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in the statement.

The plan is divided into two parts. The first step involves private industries submitting business plans and designs for a commercial-scale biorefinery, including site placement and company logistics, to the Obama administration. The government will then review the applicants, choose the most viable options and ask those designers for additional plans about the construction of a possible biofuel processing facility.

One of the goals of the program is to increase production of biofuels for use in the U.S. Navy's ships and planes, with the hope that, eventually, biofuels will account for the majority of the armed forces' energy consumption.

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