Federal Cutbacks Not Stopping MFA Biofuels Plan
by Jacob Barker (Columbia Tribune) Despite large cuts to the federal program supporting it and concerns from some groups about environmental impacts, a project to begin growing a giant perennial grass to serve as a dedicated biofuel crop is moving ahead.
MFA Oil Biomass, a partnership between Columbia-based MFA Oil and Ohio-based Aloterra Energy, will begin distributing the rhizomes of Miscanthus Giganteus to about 60 Mid-Missouri farmers in coming months, MFA’s biomass project coordinator Jared Wilmes said. MFA won approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in June for $14.6 million in funding from the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, or BCAP. The money is used to cover 75 percent of the costs to establish Miscanthus on land owned by farmers who have partnered with MFA.
MFA also has partnered with farmers in three other project areas — southwest Missouri, northeast Arkansas and along the northern border of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Another company, Centerview-based Show Me Energy Cooperative, also was approved last year for $15 million in BCAP funding growing native prairie grasses in a project area that includes Boone, Callaway, Cooper and Howard counties.
Miscanthus is a perennial grass that has seen its use as a biofuel rise in Europe, where fields have been known to return annually for decades. But the hybrid is sterile and does not produce seeds, so establishing it is expensive because the rhizomes were scarce. Their cost has since come down as their use has widened, Wilmes said. READ MORE