MSU Wins Federal Funds to Create Biofuel Research Center with Michigan Tech at UPTIC

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Raymond Miller serves as director of the Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Program. (view larger image)

Research to turn trees into liquid fuel got a boost with the approval of the $410 billion federal omnibus spending bill. The bill allocates $1.4 million for a new biofuel research program at the MAES Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center (UPTIC) in Escanaba.

The funds will allow MSU and Michigan Technological University scientists to work together to find solutions to the most complex problems facing the forest-based cellulosic biofuels industry, using trees as raw materials for renewable fuels such as ethanol. The funding for the center comes from the U.S. Department of Energy and is being distributed by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC).

“The Forestry Biofuel Statewide Collaboration Center will be a place where new and existing research, development and outreach projects at Michigan State and Michigan Tech can be focused,” said Ray Miller, MSU forest biomass development coordinator. Miller also serves as UPTIC director and oversees forestry research at Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station properties in the U.P. UPTIC is one of 15 MAES field research stations around Michigan.

Ray Miller serves as forest biomass development coordinator and UPTIC director.

“The central U.P. is heavily forested and is at the heart of both the existing forest products industry and the emerging wood-based biofuels industry,” Miller continued. “It’s the perfect place to investigate and demonstrate the best ways to use our vast forest resources to expand the state’s rural economies in environmentally, economically and socially sustainable ways.”

Martin Dober, MEDC vice president of new markets, said the research at the center will build on work funded through the state’s Forest Feedstock Supply Chain Center of Energy Excellence. MSU and MTU received $2 million through this program to support the Mascoma Corp.‘s proposed cellulosic ethanol plant in Chippewa County.

“Michigan State and Michigan Tech have been working in partnership with the MEDC to encourage and support the development of Michigan’s forest bioeconomy for more than a year,” said Steve Pueppke, director of both the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies and the MAES. “We welcome this additional support that will allow us to expand the work we’ve begun and increase the scope to include the entire state.”

Other budget bill funds, categorized as U.S. Department of Agriculture special research grants, are to go directly to MSU. They include $500,000 of a multistate $4.5 million grant for wood utilization research, $346,000 to share with the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station for fire blight research, $346,000 to combat the plant pathogen Phytophthora and $266,000 for sustainable agriculture research. Michigan State also will share in a $3.8 million energy and water appropriation for a Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research.


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