Agricultural leaders from around the country gathered last week to hear from a wide variety of energy experts and explore whether it is possible for agriculture to contribute 25% of U.S.
energy needs from renewable sources by 2025. Participants attending the National Ag Energy Summit seemed to agree that there is tremendous potential to turn this vision into reality.
Efforts to increase renewable energy supplies in this country are a â€œwinning proposition for farmers, rural communities and our nation as a whole,â€ notes Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in a letter to participants at the National Ag Energy Summit. He applauded the group for taking a â€œlong-term, comprehensive approachâ€ that includes all forms of renewable energy such as ethanol, biodiesel, solar, wind, and methane.
Renewable energy offers a way for farmers to capture more income, for rural communities to prosper and for U.S. citizens to lessen their dependence on foreign oil. More and more state and national leaders are embracing the importance of renewable energy.
â€œI donâ€™t need to tell you that we are part of something huge,â€ notes Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty in a video address during the conference. â€œWhat weâ€™re doing isnâ€™t an industry, itâ€™s a movement.â€ The Governor recently proposed that Minnesota go from the current 10% ethanol blend to 20% by 2012. Plus, he signed an executive order that requires state government to buy more renewable fuel.
â€œGreater use of renewable fuels requires us to think big, be bold and work aggressively to constantly push the horizon,â€ adds Pawlenty, â€œI love the ambitious goal you have set: 25% renewable use by 2025. America will be cleaner, freer and more prosperous as we approach that goal.â€
Speakers representing renewable sources such as wind, solar, waste products, ethanol, biodiesel and biomass talked about the incredible potential thatâ€™s emerging in each of these areas. Advancements in technology are making it easier and cheaper to produce renewable supplies.
However, there are also several challenges related to building a renewable energy infrastructure in this country. Production of renewable energy does not ensure that it can be widely distributed or utilized by many traditional sources.
A number of agricultural leaders have been meeting for the past several months to create a vision for agricultureâ€™s role in ensuring U.S. energy independence and then working toward building an alliance of organizations that also support the goal.
â€œThe Summit offered the ag community a great opportunity to come together, help define a vision for the role we can play in this area and then work collectively to bring this vision to life,â€ adds Co-chairman Bill Richards. â€œThis â€œ25 by â€™25â€ vision is not a picture of food vs. energy; itâ€™s a vision of food, fiber, and energy.
â€œWe were very encouraged by the number of people who are already interested in renewable energy and excited about the opportunity to bring this vision to life,â€ adds Co-chairman Read Smith. â€œOver the next several months we will be reaching out to over 100 national agricultural organizations to secure endorsements for the 25 x '25 vision and to gather input on action strategies to accomplish our goals."