This week I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from eight German companies who are in Iowa to learn more the approach to biofuels in the US, and specifically in Iowa.
The delegation is touring the state, visiting ethanol plants, biomass and research facilities at Iowa State University and an active anaerobic digester system in eastern Iowa. Members are also attending a BioEnergy Conference in Des Moines.
Yesterday afternoon I spent about 45 minutes talking about the commitment of President Obama and Secretary Vilsack to biofuels and renewable energy. The German delegation was impressed by the priority status renewable energy has in the Obama Administration, and recognized the impact that a reduced dependence on fossil fuels can have on rural communities. Rural communities are a foundation for much this Administration wants to accomplish.
I also used the time to explain to the German delegation the tremendous impact of USDA Rural Development’s $268 million investment in renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements during the last six years. These funds have helped leverage more than $1.3 billion in economic activity.
Rural Development provides a variety of loan guarantee and grant programs to support the bioenergy industries including a biorefinery assistance program, a program that helps biorefineries convert from burning fossil fuels to renewable biomass source, a payment program to support the expanded production of advanced biofuels, as well as other programs.
The featured German companies have a variety of technologies and approaches, but the end goal of each is to the production of bioenergy. One company specializes in building biogas plants designed with a closed-loop technology that converts syrup into methane without producing external waste streams.
Another makes pellet- and wood-chip heaters that are highly efficient and have remarkably low pollution emissions. One manufacturer makes highly efficient and flexible burner systems that can be used as part of drying systems for crops. They are able to burn the fuel the plant is producing, making the system self-sustaining.
Following their Iowa visit, some members of the delegation will be attending the World Bio Congress, June 27-29 in Washington, D.C. where they will hear Secretary Vilsack talk about how biotechnology and bioprocessing can help to create jobs and stimulate the economy in rural areas.