Des Moines, Iowa, Feb 29, 2012 -- As higher prices at the gas pump prompt yet another national debate on energy policy, it is clear that the innovation underway across Iowa and rural America fits what President Obama describes in his “all of the above” approach outlined in the State of the Union address.
He is committed to developing new domestic energy sources, expanding oil and gas production, and reducing our overall reliance on oil through fuel efficiencies and development of renewable energy.
We are part of this effort at USDA, working with scientists, farmers and entrepreneurs to promote the domestic production of biofuels in every corner to the nation. They will help to power our cars and trucks with “grown-in-America” fuels and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, many in rural communities.
Here in Iowa, POET will break ground soon on their “Project Liberty” cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, which will convert biomass, in the form of corn cobs and stover, to biofuels. It will be the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the country.
Last month, USDA Rural Development announced a $25 million loan guarantee for an expansion of a Blairstown ethanol plant in Benton County. That plant will turn municipal solid waste (a.k.a. garbage) and paper pulp into ethanol. This project is serving as a possible template for ethanol plants around the country located near landfills.
Recent investments in renewable energy are making a difference. Last year, for the first time in 16 years, imported oil accounted for less than 50 percent of the oil consumed in America. That is happening because of the research, innovation and investments occurring across Iowa and throughout rural America.
There is more ethanol produced in Iowa than any other state in the nation. Iowa also ranks fourth in biodiesel production. The biofuels industry has added $8 billion to state’s economy, generated $2 billion in household income and is responsible for more than 50,000 jobs.
A few weeks ago, I facilitated a meeting with many rural energy stakeholders with whom USDA Rural Development works closely in Iowa.
During that conversation, it became very clear that USDA Rural Development’s energy programs are making significant impacts on rural communities throughout the state. The business owners and farmers benefitting from this assistance are decreasing their energy footprint, converting renewable resources into cleaner energy, and creating and saving jobs.
Since 2002, USDA Rural Development has awarded $177 million in guaranteed loans and grants to help more than 1,500 small businesses and producers in Iowa develop biofuels, install renewable energy systems such as wind turbines, geothermal and solar, and reduce energy costs by making energy-efficiency improvements.
Also, USDA recently launched a new energy web site at www.usda.gov/energy. The site makes it easier for Americans to access USDA energy programs, see where USDA is making investments in renewable energy, and see how those investments are translating into American jobs.
Working with our colleagues in government and the private sector, the Obama Administration has invested more than $90 billion in clean energy, the largest clean-energy investment in our nation’s history.
These critical investments have already created or saved hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and put the United States on a path to double renewable energy generation from 2008 levels by 2012.
In fact, since 2008, more than 20,000 megawatts of new electric generating capacity from wind, solar and geothermal energy have come online, increasing installed capacity by more than 70 percent.
For more information about USDA Rural Development visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/ia or call (515) 284-4663.
By Bill Menner, USDA Rural Development State Director in Iowa
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