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Mabus: Biofuel research crucial to U.S. Navy

STARKVILLE — Mississippi State University biofuel research can help the Navy achieve national security goals by providing domestic energy from non-fossil fuels, according to Secretary of the Navy and former Mississippi governor Ray Mabus.

Mabus addressed the university’s annual biofuels conference to discuss his vision for biofuels assisting with strengthening national security.

“We simply buy too many fossil fuels from too many volatile areas on this earth,” Mabus told the group of researchers, business people and others affiliated with the alternative energy field. “We simply have to insulate ourselves from those supply shocks and price shocks.”

Due to the Navy’s enormous fleet and energy consumption, increases in oil costs have significant effects on the military branch’s budget. Each time the price of a barrel of oil increases by one dollar, Mabus said the Navy pays an additional $31 million in fuel costs.

To encourage development of alternative energy sources, Mabus said the Navy, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy have partnered to invest $510 million for development of non-fossil fuels from non-food sources. He said the alternative energy research from research institutions in the United States would allow the nation to wean the military from foreign energy suppliers.

Glenn Steele, director of MSU’s Energy Institute, who helped organize the biofuels conference, said the university’s level of expertise and technical capabilities in agriculture and engineering allow for a wide range of projects.

“We have the full spectrum of capabilities to support the biofuels industry from feed stocks to engines,” Steele said.

Recently, MSU opened a biofuel test pilot facility in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park  located near the university’s campus. Researchers at the pilot facility will generate amounts of fuel on a larger scale than previously possible on campus.

Steele said in about a year, the university’s shuttle system may use biofuel generated at the pilot facility, showcasing biofuel advances on campus. MSU has capabilities to produce at the pilot level bio-crude, bio-oil and synthetic-gas.

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