USDA, DOE, EPA Team Up for Biofuels, Jobs

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will lead an interagency effort with Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to increase America's energy independence and spur rural economic development, according to a May 5 press release.

"Producing clean, renewable energy in our country is a powerful rural development tool that creates jobs domestically while generating new tax revenues for local, state, and federal governments," said Vilsack.

President Obama directed 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.

The financing 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 and to biofuels producers to encourage production of next-generation biofuels from biomass and other non-corn feedstocks; expansion of Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program, which has been renamed 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 Biofuels Interagency Working Group will develop the nation's first comprehensive biofuels market development program. The increased collaboration between federal agencies will accelerate the production of and access to sustainable homegrown energy options by coordinating policies that impact the supply, secure transport, and distribution of biofuels, as well as identifying new policy options to improve the environmental sustainability of biofuels feedstock production.

The Biofuels Interagency Working Group will also work to develop policies to increase flexible fuel vehicle production and assist in retail marketing efforts while also taking into consideration land use, habitat conservation, crop management practices, water efficiency and water quality, and lifecycle assessments of greenhouse gas emissions.

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