U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz appointed Kephart to co-chair in May. Ronnie Musgrove, former Mississippi governor, serves as the other committee co-chair.Kephart, also a professor of plant science, is responsible for research administration, technology transfer and business development at SDSU. Expertise in biobased products and fuels made Kephart a resourceful candidate for the biomass committee in 2011, when he was appointed through a nomination process. Kephart will help lead committee members striving to further the technology of biomass energy."I am honored to provide service to this important initiative as co-chair," said Kephart. "I work alongside nationally recognized experts in the field of biomass energy and have learned a significant amount from them. Committee members represent a network of important contacts for the biomass work we do at South Dakota State."Biobased products are industrial products including chemicals, materials and polymers produced from biomass. Biomass is organic material from wood, grass, crop residues and algae. Animal feed and electric power are complimentary co-products of biobased products from the conversion of biomass to fuel. The Biomass Research and Development Initiative carries out research and development of biofuels and biobased products and the methods, practices and technologies involved with their production. The goal of the initiative is to develop technologies and processes necessary for the production of biofuels at prices competitive with fossil fuels. The Technical Advisory Committee is made up of 32 volunteers from the industry, academia, nonprofit organizations and local government who discuss and work with technical issues involving energy and agriculture.Committee members work to improve national energy security by facilitating partnerships among federal and state agencies, agricultural producers, consumers and researchers. Members also evaluate strategic planning for activities related to the biomass initiative.
Kephart's 30-month term on the committee ends in November, but he expects he will be re-appointed for another 36-month term.