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Rural Communities, Our Economy and Our Energy

Summary: 
Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, looks at the critical role America’s rural communities play not only in our national economy but also in helping to tackle our nation’s toughest energy challenges.

Since taking office, President Obama has emphasized the critical role America’s rural communities play not only in our national economy but also in helping to tackle our nation’s toughest energy challenges. 

Today, nearly all of the fuel that powers our cars, trucks, and aircraft currently comes from oil. This oil – half of which is imported from overseas – also accounts for over one-third of our total carbon emissions.

Yet in small towns and on family farms all across the country, a renewable fuels movement has gained momentum and is reducing our dependence on foreign oil, creating new jobs and industries, and cutting the pollution that contributes to climate change. This is why the President has and will continue to advocate for a robust biofuel industry as part of his comprehensive energy strategy.

The President has already made progress on this commitment by making significant investments to develop the biofuels industry. For example, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act included $800 million in ethanol fueling infrastructure, biorefinery construction, and advanced biofuels research. These investments will help put us on a path to reach the President’s ambitious goal of tripling America’s biofuel production by 2022. But more work remains to be done.

As Congress examines options for extending the biodiesel and ethanol tax credits, the Obama Administration believes in continued financial support for biofuels that can help us meet our energy security and environmental goals. Stakeholders have put forward reform ideas that would provide continued support for first generation ethanol and biodiesel, while simultaneously accelerating the development of infrastructure and research, development, and rapid deployment of cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels, which will be increasingly important in the years to come.  We share these priorities, and are in the beginning stages of engaging with key stakeholders to explore options for reform.  At this point, no final policy decisions have been made, and we believe that the evaluation of any proposals should be informed and guided by a thorough understanding of what has been successful in the past as well as what is needed for the future.  We look forward to an ongoing discussion to identify the policies that will help us achieve our long-term biofuels targets.

Ultimately, we need a set of policies that will catalyze the tremendous potential of renewable domestic biofuels in order to provide more energy security, cut pollution, and create new opportunities for America’s farmers from coast to coast. Look for a speech from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on October 21st for more details. 
 

Heather Zichal is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change