The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee held a hearing today to discuss the role of agriculture and rural America in enhancing our national energy security.
The 2007 Farm Bill will come up for a vote this year, and the timing is right for Congress to seize this opportunity to make the investments needed to jumpstart and sustain a global agricultural economy driven by clean renewable energy, technological innovation, and fair and open markets at home and abroad.
The Center for American Progress will release two reports next week—“Fueling a New Farm Economy: Creating Incentives for Biofuels in Agriculture and Trade Policy” and “Energizing Rural America: Local Ownership of Renewable Energy Production Is the Key”—arguing that biofuels can deliver a secure and stable supply of fuel to supplement our growing energy demands.
Combined with improved fuel economy, vehicle technology, public transportation, and conservation, the next generation of advanced biofuels can make a key contribution in our efforts to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and diversify our sources of energy.
The private and public sector must act together to strengthen our commitment to rural communities and realize these goals. To do so, we must:
- Invest in biofuels. Congress should promote innovation and U.S. competitiveness by fully funding and expanding existing federal commitments to biomass renewable energy and by providing immediate loan guarantees and production tax credits to bring cellulosic biofuel to commercial scale. Establish a goal of five billion gallons of advanced cellulosic-based biofuels in the fuel supply by 2015.
- Encourage farmers with incentives. Establish mandatory financial incentives, direct green payments, and low interest loans to encourage farmers to grow dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass and other forms of biomass.
- Push payments for worthy facilities. Establish direct producer payments and other targeted incentives to farmers engaged in the development of farmer cooperative and locally owned biorefineries and biofuel facilities.
- Increase federal support. Fully fund and expand existing federal commitments to biomass, and create tax incentives for expanding critical biofuel storage, transportation, and distribution infrastructure throughout the nation.
- Establish a carbon cap program. Reward farmers that address global warming by capping the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, and then allow farmers and companies to trade anti-pollution “credits” in the marketplace to reduce emissions.
- Open new markets. Create new markets for American agricultural products through renewable energy, trade, and development. Advocate for active U.S. leadership in the WTO Doha round to achieve a result that strengthens U.S. agriculture, encourages exports to new markets, and ensures trade liberalization, development, and poverty reduction simultaneously.
Current energy policy is clearly not working. Over 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the way that the current administration handles energy policy, and 67 percent of Americans across the political spectrum want the federal government to increase funding for biofuel research. It is time for the government to listen to the American people and get serious about enacting change.
For more information, see:
- The Future of Farm Policy, by Jake Caldwell
- New Hope on the World’s Farms, by Gayle Smith and Jake Caldwell
- The Energy Opportunity, a project of the Center for American Progress
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