Agriculture Secretary Vilsack today called on petroleum companies to help increase the percentage of ethanol in America's gas tanks in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil, boost job creation and promote development of renewable energy from farm-produced feedstocks. Recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action approved the use of E15, a fuel blend that is 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, up from the current 10 percent blend level.
"The availability of E15 will increase America's energy security and spur additional job creation," Vilsack said. "The Obama Administration has an 'all-of-the-above' to promoting domestic energy security, and increasing the percentage of ethanol to be blended with gasoline will help boost economic growth while lessening the nation's dependence on foreign oil."
EPA's recent decision to allow the blending of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline represents one of several steps needed from federal, state and industry to commercialize E15 gasoline blends.
The Renewable Fuel Standard, a long-term renewable fuel mandate established by Congress requires the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable transportation fuel by 2022. Advanced, low-carbon renewable fuels such as cellulosic biofuel must make up 21 billion gallons of this mandate. Achieving this mandate will help speed the transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy in the transportation sector, helping our nation address the challenges of climate change, dependence on oil, and job creation. Increasing the amount of ethanol that is allowed to be blended in the fuel supply of cars to 15 percent is an important step in the effort to reach this goal.
"When we get to 36 billion gallons, that's going to be mean that we will be importing fewer barrels of oil," said Vilsack. "That means that the wealth that we are currently transferring into those countries that don't necessarily agree with us and are from an unstable part of the world can be redirected into creating rural opportunities and jobs."
To enable widespread use of E15, the Obama Administration has set a goal to help fueling station owners install 10,000 blender pumps over the next 5 years. In addition, both through the Recovery Act and the 2008 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Department of Agriculture have provided grants, loans and loan guarantees to spur American ingenuity on the next generation of biofuels. Before it can be sold, manufacturers must first take additional measures to help ensure retail stations and other gasoline distributors understand and implement labeling rules and other E15-related requirements.
With a focus on helping the country reach 36 billion gallons by 2022, USDA, in collaboration with DOE and EPA, developed the Growing America's Fuels strategy. This plan will help ensure that dependable supplies of feedstock are available for the production of advanced biofuels to meet legislated goals and market demand, as well to enhance rural economic sustainability. Toward that end, USDA is supporting the establishment of five Regional Biomass Research Centers and has published a Biofuels Production Roadmap addressing regional variations in feedstock availability and biorefinery locations. In addition, USDA continues to implement bioenergy programs from the 2008 Farm Bill.
At Secretary Vilsack's direction, USDA is working to develop the national biofuels industry producing energy from non-food sources in every region of the country. Working with private and government partners, USDA is supporting research into innovative energy technologies and processes, helping companies build biorefineries -- including the first ever commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities -- and supporting farmers, ranchers, and businesses taking risks to pursue new opportunities in biofuels.
Creating new markets for the nation's agricultural products through biobased manufacturing is one of the many steps the Administration has taken over the past three years to strengthen the rural economy. Since August 2011, the White House Rural Council has supported a broad spectrum of rural initiatives including a $350 million commitment in SBA funding to rural small businesses over the next 5 years, launching a series of conferences to connect investors with rural start-ups, and creating capital marketing teams to pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council -- chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack -- the President is committed to a smarter use of existing Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.