Ag Initiatives Fit Obama's Stimulus Plans

Policy expert sees economic stimulus package that includes biomass-based technology fueled by federal farm, energy and tax policies already in place.

Published on: Dec 16, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama craves a new economic stimulus package to build infrastructure, and many policy initiatives that focus on the environment and agriculture already exist.

That's one conclusion coming out of the Midwest Ag Energy Network Summit held in Rosemont, Ill. Dec. 15-16.

Three federal policies - the 2008 Farm Bill, the Energy Act of 2007 and the extension of tax credits Congress passed last September as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 – include policies that fit right in with Obama's agenda says Carol Werner, Executive Director of Environmental & Energy Study Institute, which promotes biomass, renewable energy and sustainable ag policies.

The incoming president has talked about fixing roads and bridges, but has also talked about moving to a greener economy, she says. And there's a lot of interest on Capitol Hill in doing the same thing.

"Obama has made clear time and again that he wants stimulus to address green job training," she says. "We've got to get that infrastructure developed. We have a problem with our human infrastructure, such as training people for energy efficiency improvements on buildings, working to build solar panels or in wind turbine manufacturing. To expand those programs you really need to have more crews trained to do that."

Werner believes Congress is already working on an economic stimulus package to boost job creation and infrastructure investment. "In our opinion it should create a green infrastructure and it needs to be able to go out through existing programs so funds can get out quickly and make a difference in the next six months to two year period," she says.

Ready-made infrastructure projects can be found in the Farm Bill Energy title, with a number of new biomass provisions and expanded energy programs; The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, which also has a number of biomass provisions; and the tax credit extension passed in September, 2008.

The renewable fuel standard (RFS) was a huge piece of EISA with a requirement of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. But the RFS also includes Greenhouse Gas Emissions Screens, with required reduction of full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions relative to baseline emissions from transportation fuels beginning in 2005. It also includes screening for significant indirect emissions such as from land use changes.

"These are all issues that are now in a draft rule that EPA put together and has sent to the Office of Management and Budget and probably will be a key issue for the new administration," she says.