USDA Secretary Ed Schafer announced several renewable fuel initiatives last week at the Washington International Energy Conference. In summary, he pledged USDA to pursue the following:
- Produce or save 682 million kilowatt hours of energy in fiscal 2008 while assisting more than 1,000 rural small businesses, and creating or saving more than 2,800 jobs in rural communities.
- Develop new markets, including waste-to-energy applications, for woody biomass.
Expand the use of switchgrass as a cellulosic ethanol feedstock and provide engineering assistance to construct anaerobic digesters.
- Increase demand for biobased products.
Schafer indicated that USDA will accept $220.9 million in loan and grant applications within USDA's Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program. Loan guarantees and grants are available to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.