Sept. 16--MASCOUTAH, Ill. --A southern Illinois Congressman is showcasing a bill that would help turn the region's corn and soybeans into bio-based jet fuel for the U.S. Air Force.
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, on Monday traveled to a farm near Scott Air Force Base to drum up support for his Biofuels Development Act, which would allow grants up to $25 million toward research that would lead toward corn and soy-based jet fuel.
"We stand beside fields of corn and soybeans that will be harvested in the coming weeks," Enyart said Monday afternoon, with a number of the area's agriculture leaders around him, according to a statement. "Across the fence from those crops are runways that support fighter jets and refueling tankers that keep our country strong and secure from threats from throughout the world."
The bill would give preference to an existing biofuels research center that is close to corn and soy fields as well as a military base.
Enyart's district has all of those: The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, thousands of acres of farmland and Scott.
Enyart, who is a member of the House Armed Services and Agriculture committees, introduced the bill earlier this summer, but is just now pushing it and looking for co-sponsors.
Analysts see the Midwest, and particularly Illinois -- home to Chicago-based Boeing and United Airlines -- as the epicenter of efforts to develop bio-based jet fuel, though many believe a viable transition could be decades away.
The University of Illinois announced earlier this year that it would begin research on a $23 million biofuels research lab.
According to a report issued earlier this summer by the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative, the aviation industry and the U.S. military consume 20 billion gallons of jet fuel a year.
Enyart said Monday that aviation consumes 86 percent of the Air Force's $8.3 billion in energy expenditures.
"A federal initiative like the one proposed would create a partnership between the agriculture community, Scott and existing biofuels research centers in the region that could be of huge benefit to the county as the nation moves to secure news sources of fuel," Enyart said.
The legislation, according to Enyart's office, has been endorsed by farm groups, including the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
Copyright 2013 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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