Federal officials tout future of biofuels

U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is joining the Energy Secretary and administrator of the E-P-A to announce plans for moving ahead with the production of renewable fuels. Vilsack says the plan will move the bio-fuels industry to the next level beyond corn and soybean-based fuels, which are dominant as far as Nebraska’s role in the industry.

Vilsack says the president has directed them to create a comprehensive biofuel marketing and development program, and to do it in a sustainable way. He says the idea is to increase the use of renewable fuels and decrease the dependency on foreign oil.

Vilsack says the memorandum in his view reflects the president’s commitment to rural America as he says “it merges and marries together rural economic development with agriculture to create clean jobs and clean opportunity.”

Nebraska is the nation’s number-two ethanol producer, behind only Iowa. Ethanol is worth more than a billion dollars a year to the Nebraska economy.

E-P-A administrator Lisa Jackson says the proposed new renewable energy standard will increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into gasoline from nine billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Jackson says corn-based ethanol will be the bridge to new types of renewables, such as cellulosic ethanol, that are produce in more environmentally friendly ways.

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu says the federal government will help develop the new fuels and cleaner methods for making them. Chu says there will be 786-million dollars from the economic recovery fund for the development of advance biofuels and the expansion of commercial biofuel refineries. He says the money will help develop integrated production plants that produce biofuels and heat and power in a commercially viable way.

Vilsack says the president is also directing the Ag Department to implement the programs in the farm bill. He says the president has instructed the U-S-D-A to get the programs for renewable fuels in the farm bill into action in 30 days. Vilsack says there is over one-point-one-BILLION dollars to help build new biofuel refineries and to help existing refineries convert from fossil fuel power.

Vilsack says they also want to help restructure the finances of current biofuel facilities. He says the president has asked the Ag Department to use its credit programs to see if they can help those existing plants in economic stress restructure to get through the difficult economic times.

Vilsack says they not only want to increase the output of biofuels, but also open up more use of the biofuels. Vilsack says the president suggests they need to work in concert with the industry to figure out how to better create markets for biofuels, to increase the use of flexible fuel vehicles, to assist those who market and create more consumer interest in renewable fuels and create the needed infrastructure. Vilsack says all this needs to be done in a sustainable way.

He says the “Biofuels Interagency Working Group” will develop the nation’s first comprehensive biofuels market development program.