Committee Examines Agriculture's Role in Energy Production

Jun 29, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Chairman Bob Goodlatte chaired a hearing to review the role of agriculture in the renewable fuels market. As the U.S. continues to strive toward energy independence, renewable fuels derived from agricultural products and byproducts are playing an increasingly prominent role. The renewable energy market provides America’s farmers and ranchers with new opportunities to market their products as well as potentially generate revenue from traditional waste products

“With gasoline prices consistently hovering around $3 a gallon, I believe it is appropriate to discuss how agriculture commodities, the source of most ethanol and biodiesel, can make a larger contribution to our nation’s energy supply,” Chairman Goodlatte said in his opening statement. “As energy prices continue to rise and we work to reduce our dependency on foreign oil it is important that we continue to promote the development of alternative fuels and create new markets for agriculture products in the energy markets.”

The Energy Policy Act passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President last year, contained a renewable fuels standard (RFS) provision to increase renewable fuel production to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. The Congress has recognized that renewable fuels contribute to a cleaner environment, reduce pollution and reliance on foreign oil, and contribute to the stability of the rural farm economy by creating commercial markets for crops.

“As we heard at today’s hearing, the growing market for renewable energy products like ethanol and biodiesel provides a great opportunity for U.S. agriculture and rural America to lead the nation to an energy independent future. Moving forward, we must address the needs for research and explore ways to increase consumer access to biofuels, E-85 pumps and flex fuel vehicles. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to address these important issues,” said Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson.

In early June, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson introduced a resolution, H.Con.Res. 424, setting a goal of producing 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S. on America’s farms, ranches, and forests by the year 2025 (25x’25). The initiative is intended to spark discussion in Congress about how to go about increasing the research and development of domestic renewable energy sources.

“As we go about working to make the 25x’25 goal a reality, hearings like the one today will help drive the discussion and move us toward developing a plan to increase opportunities for our farmers and ranchers. This is just the beginning and we will work to ensure that a number of opportunities are explored,” said Chairman Goodlatte.

The Committee heard from three panels of witnesses including Under Secretary for Rural Development Tom Dorr who spoke about the President’s Advanced Energy Initiative as well as representatives from General Motors, Iogen, and the Agriculture Utilization Research Institute. Additionally, witnesses representing a variety of agricultural producer groups provided testimony.

“New technologies are being developed in rural America as we speak,” said Rep. Gil Gutknecht. “This is great news for energy consumers, but even better news for economic development in Minnesota and the rest of rural America. Moving forward, we need to make sure that rural innovators have access to markets. We need to move groundbreaking ideas off of the drawing table and into the marketplace. I will continue to work with the Committee and the USDA to see that we give American-made energy every chance to succeed.”

A full transcript of the hearing will be available on the Committee website 4-6 weeks following the hearing.

Witness List

Panel I
The Honorable Thomas C. Dorr, Under Secretary for Rural Development, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Panel II
Mr. Mark K. Gaalswyk, President, Easy Automation, Welcome, Minnesota
Mr. Bob Walker, CEO, Bixby Energy Systems, Rogers, Minnesota
Dr. Richard W. Hamilton, President and CEO, Ceres, and Board Member, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Thousand Oaks, California
Mr. Al Christopherson, Chairman of the Board, Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, Crookston, Minnesota
Mr. John W. Burke, III, Forest Landowner and President, Virginia Forestry Association, Richmond, Virginia

Panel III
Mr. Bob Dinneen, President and CEO, Renewable Fuels Association, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Jeff Passmore, Executive Vice President, Iogen Energy, Ottawa, Ontario
Dr. Mary Beth Stanek, Manager, General Motors Strategic Initiatives, Detroit, Michigan
Dr. William A. Frey, Global Business Director, DuPont Biofuels, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, Inc., Washington, D.C.