WASHINGTON (07/12/06) – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Mike Johanns and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman have announced that the two agencies will co-host a national renewable energy conference to help create partnerships and strategies necessary to accelerate commercialization of renewable energy industries and distribution systems, the crux of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI).
The conference, Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance, is scheduled for October 10-12, 2006, in St. Louis, Missouri.
“Keeping America competitive calls upon us to work together to expand sustainable, market-driven, domestic energy sources,” Johanns said. “The October conference will build upon the President’s vision for overcoming our energy challenges and help create new wealth opportunities in rural communities.”
“Never has reducing our dependence on foreign oil been such a pressing issue,” Bodman said. “We have the will and the means to replace significant quantities of foreign oil with homegrown fuel. We are hopeful this conference will identify major impediments and critical pathways to get more domestically grown, renewable energy sources out of the laboratory and into consumers’ hands as soon as possible.”
Johanns also announced a loan guarantee and grant totaling $3.75 million for construction and operation of a new biodiesel production facility in Iowa.
From Wall Street to Main Street, investors are seeking to understand potential markets. This conference will focus on elements of President Bush’s AEI, specifically biomass, wind and solar research and commercialization. USDA and DOE expect the conference to identify major impediments, review challenges and make recommendations to help accelerate renewable energy technology development; examine key incentives that would help promote certainty and reduce risk for investors and developers in the marketplace; review challenges of developing new distribution systems; and raise public awareness.
USDA and DOE expect conference attendees to cover a broad spectrum of interests, including: agriculture, energy, transportation, financial and investment, federal and state government, and elected officials.
In announcing the biodiesel facility loan and grant, Johanns said the funding recipient is Riksch BioFuels LLC, which will construct a plant near Crawfordsville, Iowa. Twenty-five investors, including farmers and business owners, already have raised over $3.3 million for the project and will receive $400,000 from the Iowa Department of Economic Development.
For the past several years, USDA Rural Development has provided renewable energy grants. During FY 2005, 154 grants totaling over $22 million were awarded. Today’s announcement brings the amount of renewable energy loans guaranteed to $13.35 million. Since the start of the Bush Administration, Rural Development has funded more than $356 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency ventures through various programs.
The President’s AEI requests $2.1 billion, a 22 percent budget increase at DOE. The AEI aims to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and increase production of domestically grown fuel, which will in turn, promote U.S. job growth and increase energy security.
Information regarding the October conference will be available on both USDA and DOE’s website at www.usda.gov and www.energy.gov.
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