New Funding for Renewable Energy

Published online: Jan 26, 2007 Sugar Producer Staff
WASH D.C.--U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is to propose $1.6 billion in new funding for renewable energy, with a focus on cellulosic energy research and production, as part of the government's 2007 farm bill proposals. Cellulosic energy involves breaking down a plant's cell structure and tapping the sugars inside to make usable energy. Johanns says the funding will support President Bush's goal of reducing gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next 10 years and will compliment an array of renewable energy-related efforts underway at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "It remains a priority across USDA to support the development of biofuels," he says. "We will continue to build on current programs and turn the corner on renewable energy. With biofuels coming to the forefront, American agriculture faces the greatest opportunity of a generation to lead a future in which we get our energy by the bushel and not by the barrel." The USDA spent nearly $1.7 billion on energy-related programs between 2001 and 2005. In 2006 alone, USDA spent more than $270 million on these programs in areas such as commercialization, research, infrastructure development, and technical support. Currently, there are 110 operational ethanol plants in 19 states with another 73 under construction and new proposals at an astounding rate. U.S. Agriculture Research Service scientists have developed improved fermentation organisms and are making other significant steps toward achieving the technology needed for commercial production of cellulosic ethanol. ARS scientists have genetically modified a strain of lactic acid bacteria, that produces increased levels of ethanol from cellulosic biomass. The research findings demonstrate that metabolic engineering has the potential to create new biocatalysts to convert biomass to biofuels. Johanns plans to provide additional information about the proposal to provide $1.6 billion in new funding for renewable energy within the next few weeks when he unveils the administration's full package of 2007 Farm Bill proposals