Farm Industry News Blog

Obama Issues Directive to Expedite Biofuel Investments

President Obama today issued a presidential directive to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to “aggressively accelerate the investment in and production of biofuels.” This should be welcome news to everyone in the renewable energy industries—from crop producers to ethanol and biodiesel producers to biofuel industry equipment suppliers to ag equipment manufacturers.

I keep returning to Thomas Friedman’s book Hot, Flat, and Crowded in this blog, but the President’s directive today reminds me of what Friedman wrote—that America needs to move beyond a Code Red mindset toward a Code Green one where we are “united and propelled by a common purpose, not a common enemy.”

That common purpose, making this country the greenest one on Earth, “is a core national security and economic interest,” Friedman writes.

The Obama Administration “gets” that, as evidenced by today’s directive. Moreover, in line with the directive, the USDA, EPA and DOE will form an interagency working group to increase America’s energy independence and spur rural economic development.

A news release from the USDA reported that President Obama directed Secretary Vilsack to expedite and increase production of and investment in biofuel development efforts by:

• Refinancing existing investments in renewable fuels to preserve jobs in ethanol and biodiesel plants, renewable electricity generation plants and other supporting industries; and

• Making renewable energy financing opportunities from the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 available within 30 days. These opportunities include

Loan guarantees for the development, construction and retrofitting of commercial- scale biorefineries and grants to help pay for the development and construction costs of demonstration-scale biorefineries;

Expedited funding to encourage biorefineries to replace the use of fossil fuels in plant operations by installing new biomass energy systems or producing new energy from renewable biomass;

Expedited funding to biofuels producers to encourage production of next- generation biofuels from biomass and other non-corn feedstocks;

Expansion of the Rural Energy for America Program, to include hydroelectric source technologies, energy audits and higher loan guarantee limits; and

Guidance and support for collection, harvest, storage and transportation assistance for eligible materials for use in biomass conversion facilities.

The USDA reports that the collaboration between the federal agencies will accelerate the production of renewable energy by coordinating policies that impact the supply, secure transport and distribution of biofuels.

Going forward, the Biofuels Interagency Working Group also will take into consideration land use, crop management practices, water efficiency and quality, and lifecycle assessments of greenhouse gas emissions.

Understanding just how much biofuel plants can help rural economies and improve rural job prospects, I am glad to see that the directive calls for refinancing existing investments . . . and doing it quickly. I think the American public will see a good return on their investment from the renewable energy industry.

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Jodie Wehrspann, Kathy Huting, Lynn Grooms, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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