Stevens Point, May 04, 2011 -- A Clean Energy Future for Wisconsin
President Obama’s recent speech outlining the need for renewable energy sources reminded all of us of an uncomfortable truth: America’s oil reserves are not large enough to meet our demands, and in the long run, we cannot keep buying massive quantities of expensive foreign oil and sustain the lifestyle to which we are accustomed. The facts tell the story. According to the Department of Energy, the average national price for regular gasoline on May 2 was $3.96/gallon. One year before, the same gallon cost $2.90. Here in Wisconsin it’s over $4.00 per gallon! Gas prices are rising to unprecedented levels and people throughout northeast Wisconsin are feeling the impact of ever increasing petroleum costs.
It is a nation-wide issue. A recent Florida news story reminded us of the direct impact of our dependence on foreign oil. The reporter interviewed a man from Orlando, who commutes 50 miles to and from work each day. He fills up his tank every other day for as much as $48, and his monthly gas cost is now about $500. A high school student, interviewed for the same news story, said that “All my money goes to gas now.” America has a lot of available energy, but as the demands increase, the costs go up.
Recently the President put forward a comprehensive, long-term vision to build a clean energy economy that will move the nation towards energy independence and create good-paying jobs in America. He set a goal of reducing our net oil imports by a third by 2025. It’s an ambitious target, and will take ingenuity and scientific research to achieve, but the rewards for American make it worth the effort, particularly in rural America.
Biofuels hold tremendous promise for replacing foreign oil with home-grown energy. USDA is working hand-in-hand with local partners and entrepreneurs to build this industry, and if we are successful, it will create hundreds of thousands of jobs growing and harvesting biomass, building and operating refineries, and transporting the biofuel to market. We also gain the knowledge that America is more secure, financially and strategically.
Here in Wisconsin bio-fuels production is a reality and steps are underway to expand bio-fuels markets. At the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development:
• We are bringing together producers and marketers of biofuels to develop strategies for state-wide distribution of renewable transportation fuels and enhanced access to blended fuel supplies. Through the Renewable Energy for America Programs, Wisconsin Rural Development offers a grant program to retailers of biofuels to offset some of the costs associated with the installation of motor fuel blender pumps.
• In collaboration with USDA sister agencies (Farm Services Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Services) we are gathering public input through forums and listening sessions to assist green energy development, encourage rural energy business start-ups, and provide infrastructure support with technical assistance and targeted federal funding.
• Anaerobic digesters, supported through loans and grants provided by Rural Development, are assisting Wisconsin farmers with their efforts toward energy self-sufficiency while improving the environment and creating new jobs. Approximately $13 million in loans and grants was awarded in Wisconsin as a piece of the foundation on which to build an independent energy future.
At USDA we have developed a comprehensive strategy and are working with state and local governments, private businesses and the American public to build and support a national renewable fuels industry.
Working together we can and will out-build and out-innovate the rest of the world and…. Win the Future. For the sake of our economy, prosperity, national security and future generations, let us begin today.
Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development