Hearing considers benefits of renewable energy in rural America

Source: By Amie Simpson, Brownfield • Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Senate Ag Subcommittee hearing today highlighted opportunities for renewable energy to spur economic growth in rural communities.

US Senator Tina Smith is chair of the Rural Development and Energy Subcommittee.

“Renewable energy is rural energy, and the clean energy transition is the cornerstone to building and sustaining economic vitality in rural communities,” she says. “Renewable energy programs are already sparking economic growth across the country.”

The Minnesota Democrat uses a national low carbon fuel standard and the development and expanded use of biofuels as examples.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is ranking member of the subcommittee.

“As we begin preliminary discussions about the 2023 Farm Bill, it’s important that we look at programs under our subcommittee’s jurisdiction to determine what’s working and what may need improvement,” she says. “We must continue exploring improvements in our programs to drive economic growth throughout rural America and that is why today’s hearing is so timely and important.”

The Iowa Republican says the state is a national leader in renewable energy production as the top ethanol and biodiesel producer and the second largest producer of wind energy.

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor spoke about the benefits of renewable ethanol for rural economies and the environment.

“Biofuels like ethanol are critical to meeting carbon reduction goals today and well into the future,” she says. “In fact, studies show there is no path to net zero emissions by 2050 without biofuels.”

Skor says Growth Energy represents over half of US ethanol production, including 92 producer plants and 91 businesses that support biofuel production.

Katie Sieben, chairwoman of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, says transmission investments are desperately needed across the Midwest.

“New transmission can maximize the value of low-cost, renewable energy and create living wage jobs that are essential to ensuring Americans have reliable power,” she says.

Other speakers during the hearing were: Shannon Schlecht, executive director of Minnesota-based Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, Bill Cherrier, executive vice president and CEO of Central Iowa Power Cooperative, and Matthew Mancuso, dean of Industrial Technology at Iowa Western Community College.

Senator Smith says testimonies will help the subcommittee as it drafts bipartisan infrastructure bills and consider climate resilient legislation.

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