As gasoline prices continue to rise across the country, USDA is working with farmers and entrepreneurs to secure our nation’s long-term energy future and give Americans more choices about where to spend their gas dollars: at home or abroad.
For the past two years, USDA has worked to support the research, investment, and infrastructure necessary to build a nationwide biofuels industry that creates jobs in every corner of the country.
USDA has a long history of helping Americans with their energy choices. Our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has helped thousands of rural businesses and farmers improve the efficiency of their equipment or produce their own renewable energy by installing solar panels or wind turbines.
Now we are helping people understand that this popular program can also help gas stations install special pumps to provide biofuels to motorists across the county.
Today there are millions of so-called ‘flex fuel vehicles’ on the road that can use fuel containing up to 85 percent ethanol (E-85). But too few filling stations offer this fuel. Some folks don’t even know that their car or truck is built to use E-85. So while many stations make it easy for motorists to choose between regular and super grade petroleum at the pump, very few stations allow motorist to make a similar choice when it comes to a blend of ethanol and petroleum.
The Obama Administration has set a goal of making 10,000 new flex-fuel pumps available to America’s drivers within the next five years – a five-fold increase from today’s level. And today, I am visiting Minnesota where there are over 360 stations pumping E-85 – more than any other state. It is time for the rest of the nation to follow their lead.
Making higher ethanol blends available to drivers not only gives them choices, it helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil and build a green energy economy. As demand for American-produced ethanol increases, new production techniques are making it possible to produce high quality fuel from biomass including wood chips, switchgrass and even algae. And as this technology reaches commercialization levels, refineries producing these biofuels will need to dot the countryside, providing good paying jobs for Americans.
By building infrastructure to put biofuels produced here in America in our fuel tanks, USDA is supporting the clean energy economy we need to ensure our long-term prosperity and help us out-compete the rest of the world.
Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture