Cooper gets grant for guayule plant

July 11, 2012

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and its consortium partners a $6.9 million grant.

The four-year grant will focus on research efforts aimed at the following:

* developing enhanced manufacturing processes;

* testing and utilizing of guayule natural rubber as a strategic source of raw material in tires; and

* evaluating the remaining biomass of the guayule plant as a source of bio-fuel for the transportation industry.

The grant was a result of a recent joint announcement by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for $30 million in funding for research and development of technologies and processes for alternative renewable fuels and bio-based products. The advanced bio-fuels produced from these projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50% compared to fossil fuels.

Each proposed project must integrate science and engineering research in three technical areas: feedstock development; bio-fuel and bio-based products development; and bio-fuels development analysis. 

Cooper Tire will lead a consortium of companies, universities and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the USDA to develop guayule technology for future commercialization opportunities in the tire industry. Yulex Corp. -- a leader in guayule crop science and renewable products made from guayule -- will be the manufacturer of the material.

Other important components of this work include collaborative projects to advance agronomic practices, development of genetic and genomic information, and a life cycle analysis, which will document the impact a bio-material and bio-energy industry will have on the American Southwest.

"By partnering with the consortium members, we will significantly decrease the time necessary to bring this technology to commercialization for the industry," says Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper's vice president of global technology. "The goal of this effort is to decrease our reliance on off-shore raw materials while creating new jobs for American workers."

"We are excited to be partnering with Cooper Tire and the other consortium members to support the tire industry. This grant represents not only an outstanding opportunity to advance guayule science and technology, but also offers the opportunity to speed up the process of large scale utilization of guayule in the overall marketplace," adds Yulex CEO Jeff Martin.

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