Weyerhaeuser joins UW, WSU in biofuel research project

The University of Washington and Washington State University – the two largest public colleges in the state – have been awarded federal grants worth $80 million to create a biofuel industry in the Pacific Northwest.

Awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the purpose of the funding is to discover a way to turn trees into fuel for cars and jet engines, thereby creating a source of sustainable energy and reducing the United States’ dependence upon foreign oil.

The move has been widely praised for its potential to create thousands of new jobs and drive economic development within rural communities here in Washington state and throughout the country by building the framework for a competitively-priced, American-made biofuel industry.

The UW and WSU will each manage $40 million of the awarded funds. And for its part, WSU will be joined by a team from Weyerhaeuser, a global leader in the timber industry that will function as a subcontractor on the project.

Weyerhaeuser will contribute by focusing on the potential for sustainable production of woody feedstocks for use in biofuel and value-added products. They will also attempt to understand how to more cost effectively collect under utilized harvest material and explore ways to convert woody biomass lignin components into value added bio products, according to a release made available through their site.

The total grant was worth $136 million and represents the largest endowment ever made by the USDA. In addition to the funding awarded to the two Washington state universities, remaining grants were given to schools in Louisiana, Tennessee and Iowa.

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