Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack got questions about ethanol during his first official press conference Monday.
Vilsack says he favors improving efficiency in ethanol plants in order to ensure that the industry survives the economic downturn. “We need to make sure that the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive the recent downturn,” Vilsack told reporters.
“The USDA should research, develop and promote best practices to improve efficiency at corn-based ethanol plants, which have been hit hard by volatile corn prices, followed by a sharp drop in demand for the biofuel, which is more expensive than gasoline,” Vilsack said.
The secretary was also asked if sound science and data supports an expansion of the ethanol blending cap. He didn’t really directly answer that but said that USDA would support accelerating research on ethanol production and promoting second and third generation feedstocks.
“Obviously, we have a serious challenge that has been put forward by Congress to meet the various mandates for renewable fuel within our system. In order to do that, we’re going to have to figure out ways to incorporate ethanol into the fuel system at even greater levels over the course of time.” Vilsack said. “And it’s also clear that within a very short number of years we are going to have to be relying on something other than solely corn-based ethanol, based on the mandates and directives. So all of that is to say, there needs to be lines of communication; there needs to be an effort to promote and extend ethanol use in a variety of ways; and there needs to be a recognition that there are challenges to the expansion of that use, and USDA needs to help meet those challenges.”
You can listen to the Secretary’s entire answer to that question here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/usda/vilsack-ethanol-cap.mp3]
Read a transcript of the secretary press conference here.