Federal biomass research committee appoints new co-chair

By Chris Hanson | July 11, 2013

The Biomass Research and Development Initiative Technical Advisory Committee appointed Kevin Kephart as the new committee co-chair.

Kephart, vice president of research at South Dakota State University, will serve as co-chair beside former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and assist the committee in the research, development and production standards of biomass-derived fuels and materials.

One of the highest priorities for the committee will be assisting industry and research organizations in living up to the goal of the renewable fuels standard (RFS).  Kephart said the advisory committee will assist the biomass research and development board by overseeing and providing reports on how the Biomass Research and Development Initiative helps to meet goals of the RFS through funding of research and development projects, such as pilot and pre-commercialization scale plants. As a federal advisory board, Kephart clarified that the committee does not take a position on any matter Congress might have under consideration.  

“We’re there to make sure the funds provided by the government are allocated in an effective and non-prescriptive manner,” Kephart said. “We spend a lot of time every year just reviewing how [the USDA] and Department of Energy have utilized the funds.” 

Another change in the coming year stems from the elimination of mandatory funds from the USDA and DOE for the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. “What the committee is doing now, especially in the last couple months is going through some strategic planning, discussions and efforts with the Department of Energy,” Kephart explained. He added the committee is also researching what the “grand challenges” are facing the biomass industry, especially with the availability of cheaper natural gas. He also noted that as an advisory role, the committee is prohibited from taking positions on any matter Congress might have under consideration or taking actions intended to influence Congress.

Kephart said he was aware of his nomination to co-chair since January 2013 and explained how the lengthy nomination process functions. First, the nomination process originates from within the federal government, specifically the DOE or USDA. Those nominations are then sent to the appointed, department initiative leaders and taken to the respective secretaries where the White House oversees the nomination materials.

The 32-member technical advisory committee consists of volunteers from the biomass industry, academia, nonprofit organizations and local government.