Vilsack: Take biofuels industry beyond Midwest

To this point in time, the U.S. biofuels industry has been based mainly in the Corn Belt.  But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says an upcoming USDA report on renewable energy strategies will explore ways to make it a “national” industry.

“Our focus at USDA is primarily on how do you build biorefineries in all parts of the country,” Vilsack says. “How do you take advantage of the most efficient and effective feedstocks that are available in various parts of the country and play to the strength of each region of the country?”

Vilsack says much of the report will focus on meeting the 21 billion gallon “advanced biofuels” requirement contained in the Renewable Fuels Standard. 

Vilsack also says that, despite the latest delay, he is still confident that EPA will approve a higher blend rate for ethanol.  And he says a key to increasing consumer usage of ethanol is the installation of more blender pumps across the U.S. “We need a distribution system that allows somebody to go into a filling station and basically turn the dial and they get 10 percent if that’s what fits their vehicle—or they get 15 percent if that’s okay—or they get 85 percent because they’ve got a flexible fuel vehicle,” Vilsack says.

Vilsack says it’s time for all parties, including the federal government, to make the commitment to grow the biofuels industry.

“The USDA is prepared to make that commitment—to put the resources behind building out this industry,” he says, “Why?  Because it’s good for the country, and it’s absolutely good for rural America, and it’s absolutely good for farmers and ranchers.”

Vilsack says the new USDA report, scheduled for release later this week, will be a “roadmap” for getting to the overall goal of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by the year 2022, as stipulated in the RFS2.

AUDIO: Opening conference call comments from Tom Vilsack (11 min MP3)

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