Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responds to questions, with the assistance of Office of Communications Director of Web Communications Amanda Eamich, during the first Virtual Office hours live "Twitter" session held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 4, 2012. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
In the fast paced technology world there are a lot of firsts coming at us all the time. But if you had told me that I’d be present for the first ever USDA Virtual Office Hours on April 5, 2012, in our 150th year, I assure you I never would have believed you. The event allowed USDA, a department President Lincoln referred to as the People’s Department –– to reach hundreds of thousands of people, 140 characters at a time. What really struck me was how many insightful questions came in about energy and USDA, and, in particular, one that was asked on our Facebook page shortly before the hour long chat.
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The Biomass Crop Assistance Program, or BCAP, is still in its infancy, but its potential success has producers and businesses wanting more.
“We have people on a waiting list,” said Tim Wooldridge, Arkansas project manager with MFA Oil Biomass. MFA was selected by USDA to manage three of nine project areas in fiscal year 2011. Each project area was awarded federal funding to provide incentives to farmers to grow non-food crops that can be processed into biofuels. “Our initial target in the Arkansas project was 5,000 acres, which we surpassed in signing up 6,588 acres. We now have 1,500 acres on a waitlist. We could easily get another 6,000.” Read more »
On March 30th, the Department of Agriculture, is hosting a “match making day” at USDA, to promote connections between agricultural producers of energy feedstocks (and their related businesses) with biorefiners seeking to produce biofuels for commercial sale and consumption. Officials from the U.S. Department of Navy, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Federal Aviation Administration will attend, make presentations and answer questions.
As we move forward as a nation, identifying and implementing an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, there are key relationships that will determine our success in the effort to develop and deploy aviation biofuels. The objectives of this match making session will be to improve awareness and increase understanding of the biofuels supply-chain links between those involved in feedstock production and the processors of that feedstock into biofuels. This includes logistical challenges, potential roles of service providers, and potential pitfalls. Read more »
Today, in Chicago, I joined Secretary Vilsack as he met with leaders from Boeing, United Airlines and Honeywell, to talk about support for the development of biofuels to power our jets.
In the United States alone, passenger and cargo airlines spend about $50 billion on fuel each year. If just a fraction of those billions were used to purchase American-produced aviation biofuels, we provide the opportunity to create thousands of good-paying jobs in communities across the nation. Read more »
Not everyone knows it, but most Americans use biofuels to help power their car or truck every day. Using biofuels we produce here at home creates jobs, raises incomes for farmers, and saves us all money. The ethanol mixed into the gas we buy at the pump saved American drivers almost 90 cents per gallon last year.
Moving forward, we’ll see Americans running their cars with more biofuels mixed into the gas – like E85, a mix with 85 percent ethanol. And USDA will help install thousands of new pumps at gas stations so drivers can pick the sort of fuel they want. Read more »
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport served as a dramatic backdrop today for an announcement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that delivers $136 million in research and development grants to public and private sector partners in 22 states. In short, the grants look to make energy for autos and marine and jet crafts from plants. By unlocking that potential—known as bioenergy—Vilsack said a “next-generation of biofuels” would create new economies in rural areas across the United States. Eventually, these regional, renewable energy markets will generate sustainable jobs and decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil. And that future, said Vilsack, is closer than we think.
“This is an opportunity to take woody biomass from our forests to create fuel for jets to fly anywhere in the world,” said Vilsack. “This is a great day for our country. We’re building something new, creating jobs everywhere in the country.” Read more »