Tom Vilsack affirms Biden administration support for renewable fuels

Source: By Erin Murphy, The Gazette • Posted: Sunday, September 12, 2021

Ag secretary says electric vehicle emphasis does not replace biofuel support

Tom Vilsack affirms Biden administration support for renewable fuels Wooden Wheel Vineyards in Keota has been awarded a $20,000 federal grant for a 50-kilowatt solar array. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants on Thursday and sought to assure biofuels advocates of the administration’s support. (Southeast Iowa Union)
Tom Vilsack affirms Biden administration support for renewable fuels Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, now secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is interviewed in June 2019 in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Federal Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday said the Biden administration supports ethanol and biofuels, in addition to supporting the development of electric vehicles.

“You look at the totality of it all, and you look at the investment for example today … and you can see that there’s a wide range of ways for this administration to provide help and assistance to the biofuel industry,” the former Iowa governor said in a conference call with reporters.

Vilsack also announced federal grants, totaling $86,000, for five Iowa projects, including one in Keota, that boost renewable energy and energy efficiency.

He also noted the Biden administration has pledged to limit the number of waivers that allow large oil refineries to avoid adding a certain percentage of corn-based ethanol to the national fuel supply.

“I think folks need to be a bit patient, need to be understanding, and we need to look more deeply (at how the administration supports renewable and biofuels),” Vilsack said.

President Joe Biden last month set a goal that by 2030 half of all new vehicles sold will be electric.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, recently raised a concern about the administration’s support of biofuels during a roundtable discussion of rural issues.

Iowa projects

In announcing grants for five Iowa projects, Vilsack said the projects — which total $464 million in grants and loans across the country — represent a federal investment in “climate-smart infrastructure” that will down energy costs for rural farms and small businesses, support jobs and spur economic development.

The Iowa projects were awarded grants under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP.

“These REAP programs can consist of solar panels on farms, they can consist of windmills that provide power,” Vilsack said during the call. “In some cases, they involve energy efficiency and an opportunity to basically take a look at ways in which the farm can save energy … smart technologies (and) smart energy efficiency facilities that can save money.”

The five Iowa projects receiving grants are:

•$20,000 for Loren Dempster in Garnavillo to buy and install a 101-kilowatt solar array.

•$15,321 for Slumberland Furniture to buy and install LED light fixtures.

•$19,200 for Grundy County Rural Electric Cooperative to buy and install LED lighting in the co-op’s service area.

•$11,615 to Michael Martin (location not listed) to help buy and install a 34-kilowatt solar array.

•$20,000 to Wooden Wheel Vineyards in Keota to help buy and install a 50-kilowatt solar array.

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