EPA director Jackson accompanies Secretary Vilsack on Iowa farm tour

(from AP coverage of the visit)

(Jackson said) “What I learned was, whether it was the livestock operation, the row crops, biodiesel or ethanol or other advances,” she said, “biofuels is about the innovation. There really is remarkable innovation happening right here on the ground.” Specifically, Jackson referred to business-based innovation in improved process efficiencies and growing methods that “had great impact on air quality and water quality.”

She also noted that while EPA has a “specific mission,” there is no reason for it to work in competition with agriculture. “In fact,” she added, “what I learned today just reinforces my belief that there are tremendous win-win opportunities.”

For Vilsack, those opportunities include the benefits of biofuel production. “The USDA wants to show its support of biofuels to reduce dependence on foreign oil,” he said in response to a question from Ethanol Producer Magazine’s editor, Sue Retka Schill, on what the USDA has been up to over the last few weeks with biofuels announcements. “We see this (biofuels) as a lynch pin to revitalize rural economies. Not only will it add dollars and cents to the bottom lines of farmers and ranchers,” he said, “it will also help to create jobs.” When the U.S. reaches the 36 billion gallon goal set by the RFS2, he said the country could see up to a million new jobs. Along with job creation, “we are going to see capital investment [and] more construction opportunities” based on a continued development of the biofuels industry.

To seize on the benefits of biofuels, however, Vilsack pointed to a number of things that need to happen, most notably continued governmental support. “It requires continuing to provide some degree of support for this industry. We found out what happens when the supports are ended abruptly when the biodiesel tax credit was stopped. We lost production capacity, we lost jobs, and we clearly don’t want to replicate that.”

Our Take:
The USDA estimates the 36 billion gallon per year goal of RFS will create a million new jobs. We doubt that oil production in the Gulf of Mexico will create a million new jobs, but it will undoubtedly bring a reprise of last year’s disaster–the worst manmade environmental disaster in US history.

We’d like to see Jackson put her money where her mouth is and come up with ideas that allow EPA and other government agencies to support and work cooperatively with agriculture to achieve the nation’s environmental goals.

Recognition that ethanol and biodiesel are an environmental highroad when compared to offshore oil stilling–and biofuels ought to be treated that way, switching incentives now paid out to oil companies to other uses that would help us grow our renewable energy production base.

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