NARA Director Ralph Cavalieri attends CAAFI 2014 General Meeting and Expo
NARA Director Ralph Cavalieri attends CAAFI 2014 General Meeting and ExpoCAAFI 2014 General Meeting & Expo

Posted by Michael Wolcott, NARA project co-director

NARA is well represented at CAAFI’s flagship meeting around alternative aviation fuels. We are joining a majority of the biofuels industry, the US air carriers, Boeing, FAA, USDA, DOE, NIST, EPA, and counterparts from around the world, all of us hard at work to build a new industry.

This has been quite a meeting. Yesterday we heard breaking news about the Farm Bill and renewable energy featured in the State of the Union address. Today featured a session that combined FAA, USDA, DOE, and NIST articulating their joint efforts to realize US  goals to further sustainability of the aviation industry. The challenge of these efforts are both sobering at exciting. The leadership of the FAA in organizing these many parts and building on the insightful investments of USDA NIFA is impressive. It really feels like we are moving into a new era.

But the highlight of the meeting was our Keynote address today by Secretary Vilsack who was preceded and introduced by Admiral McGinn (Ret) who is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Both of these speakers emphasized the role of biofuels in building national energy security even in light of record domestic oil production. But it was Secretary Vilsack who so eloquently articulated the need and role of the emerging bioeconomy in rural economic development. He made it unequivocally clear that our aim must be rural jobs and their role in economic equality. And when I say “our aim”, I mean NARA. Secretary Vilsack called out NARA and AHB directly, going on to reference ASCENT, which is the new FAA Center of Excellence led by WSU and MIT. USDA’s Bill Goldner leaned over to me and asked “Feel any pressure yet?”. I said, “Not with our team!”