Ag Secretary Highlights Renewable Energy Efforts

Cindy Zimmerman

During a visit to a Massachusetts renewable energy company on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted USDA’s continuing efforts to invest in research and development projects that will help reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil.

Vilsack toured Agrivida, a company that is developing technologies to reduce the cost of converting biofuel feedstocks into sugar, focusing on sorghum, corn stover, and switchgrass. The Department of Energy and USDA have helped fund research in this effort through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative.

Meeting with reporters after the tour, Vilsack said biofuels hold great promise for the country if research and innovation is allowed to continue. “As we get to the point where we can make it cost-effective and cost-competitive with oil, you’re going to see an opportunity for this country to innovate itself away from fossil fuels,” he said. “We can provide farmers and opportunity to take what has been in the past, waste product and convert it into a tangible asset that can be sold to a company that would convert it into energy and fuel, creates new income opportunities for farmers.”

Vilsack said while federal spending needs to be cut, investments in this kind of research will lead to more jobs and greater energy independence. Earlier this month, Secretary Vilsack announced a total of $41 million in grants through the program to fund an additional seven research and development projects throughout the country that will help increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products.

biofuels, biomass, Ethanol, USDA