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10/6/11 - MSU biofuels research contributes to national security

Mississippi State University biofuel research can help the Navy achieve national security goals by providing domestic energy from non-fossil fuels, the Secretary of the Navy announced today.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, 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 will allow the nation to wean the military from foreign energy suppliers.

"The scope of what Mississippi State is doing impressive," he said of the university's biofuels research.

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 recently 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.

The biofuels conference attracts a wide range of business and research interests, including California-based General Atomics and the National Science Foundation.

While the annual biofuels conference focuses attention on university research area, faculty and staff concentrate throughout the year on ways to develop fuel sources from methods not involving fossil fuels or food sources. MSU research advances have led to significant developments in finding useful energy sources related to industrial waste, timber byproducts and wastewater treatment plants.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum, who served as the undersecretary of agriculture prior to his current leadership role, said finding solutions to this national and global challenge that can benefit the state of Mississippi embodies the university's mission as a land grant institution.

"This is something that we as a nation have committed to doing," Keenum said. "Mississippi State has a vital contribution to make."

To view a video of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and MSU President Mark E. Keenum's news conference, click here. To view video of the keynote speech click here.

Robbie S. Ward | University Relations

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