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White House Seeks New US Bio-Fuel Industry Not Based on Corn

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House Tuesday announced a $510 million initiative meant to spur development of a new U.S. bio-fuel industry that utilizes non-food crops like algae or wood chips instead of the more traditional source, corn.

Officials billed the plan, a public-private partnership, as part of the administration’s efforts to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and create new jobs in rural parts of the country.

President Obama has set a goal of reducing U.S. oil imports by one-third by 2025.

While the U.S. currently lacks the capacity to manufacture the so-called next-generation “drop-in” bio-fuels, the new three-year program is expected to jump-start the industry with construction and retrofitting of several new fuel plants.

Private companies that bid for and win government contracts to build the new facilities will receive at least a one-to-one match of federal funds for their investment, officials said.  The money will come from existing budgets at the U.S. Navy and Energy and Agriculture Departments.   

“The idea is that we would help start these new competitive industries, but that they become self-sustaining going forward,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu on a conference call with reporters.

The Navy is expected to be the primary early consumer of the new fuels.

“We buy too much fuel from potentially and actually volatile places on earth,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.  Developing advanced bio-fuels will “reduce vulnerabilities…and save costs and lives.”  

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who’s traveling with the president on his bus trip through rural Iowa, said the initiative would also create construction jobs, refinery jobs and “economic opportunity in rural communities throughout the country.”

Officials did not specify how many jobs the initiative is expected to create, or when the new fuels will begin flowing out from refineries.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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