Gulf of Mexico
spill is a reminder that U.S. needs to develop more renewable fuels
Vilsack, U.S. Agriculture Secretary
U.S. needs a strong, vibrant rural economy.
Unfortunately, over the past several decades there have been times when
neither strong nor vibrant. Persistent high unemployment and poverty
many to leave their rural communities. A majority of rural counties
population, and with it, came a loss of political representation.
Obama refuses to accept the notion that Rural America’s past
future. He recognizes that the source of America’s innovative
spirit and our
enduring values remain rooted in our rural areas.
President’s vision for a revitalized rural economy that
opportunity for growth and prosperity centers on our ability to add
technologies, open new markets for crops, and better utilize our
resources. The President has ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture
to make that vision a reality.
approach at the heart of the President’s
vision—which combines new
technologies, new markets, and better use of our natural
nation’s capacity to reduce its dependence on imported oil
and fossil fuels
through the increased production and use of biofuels and renewable
No one can
dispute that we remain too dependent on imported oil. That dependency,
action now, will grow as our need for more energy grows. The Energy
Administration estimates that by 2035, U.S. energy consumption will
increased by another 50 percent.
years ago, 28 percent of the oil consumed in the United States was
Today that figure is closer to 60 percent—some of which comes
that neither like us nor support us. Today, we still send a billion
day outside our shores helping other countries’ economies to
grow while our
economy recovers from a deep recession.
disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we are also reminded that
development of our own oil resources is not without environmental and
We can do
better. We have to do better. Rural America is where we will do better.
Renewable Fuel Standard, known as RFS2, reaffirmed the goal of
2022: 36 billion gallons of biofuels, including 21 billion gallons of
that goal means importing less oil—at least, according to a
study, a $350 billion cumulative total value of avoided petroleum
the 2010-2022 period.
$350 billion that we can keep here, in this country. This means less
fuels releasing fewer toxins and having cleaner air to breathe and,
to that same industry study, creating up to a million new jobs with
of $95 billion in new biorefineries.
To meet the
36 billion gallon goal, we need to work harder and faster.
helped build the biofuel industry and incentives need to continue.
must include identifying additional feedstocks available throughout the
and discovering more efficient production processes. Research and
of 36 billion gallons of biodiesel will require that biorefineries dot
landscape. The Farm Bill of 2008 authorized investments to assist in
construction of new biorefineries. Today, I am directing the Rural
mission area of USDA within
days to announce funding under the current Biorefinery
Assistance Program for the construction (to commence in 2011) of a
or bioenergy plant in each of the regions serviced by the regional
doing so, the entire country can begin to see the economic benefit to
and job creation potential of the biofuel/bioenergy industry.
that some may doubt our capacity to meet the challenge of expanding the
biofuels industry. I do not underestimate the challenges, but I have
America rise again and again to continually meet the large challenge of
providing food, feed, and fiber for the country—and the
action remain powerful forces to affect change. I believe the
vision for rural America compels us to action. I believe the goals
within the RFS2 mandate action. And I
believe the need for energy security, a cleaner environment, and better
economic opportunity in rural America,
make the case for immediate action.
For the Record is an edited excerpt of a speech by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to the National Press Club, Washington, D.C., in October 2010.