Vilsack: Biofuels can continue to lower consumer gas prices

By Tom Vilsack | July 09, 2012

As Americans joined family and friends to celebrate America’s independence, tens of millions took to our highways and Interstates – and I know that gas prices were on the minds of many.

President Obama understands the impact gas prices can have for families, and he is committed to an “all of the above” energy approach to solving our nation’s energy challenges – including reducing pain at the pump.

That includes developing the homegrown biofuels that save Americans money at the gas station and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

The fact is biofuels can have a significant impact on gas prices for Americans. For example, one Iowa State University study has shown that the use of ethanol to help power our cars and trucks suppresses gas costs by as much as $1.37 a gallon.

Over the past three years, the USDA has played a key role in carrying out the president’s energy strategy, making historic investments into the research and development of ethanol, biodiesel and advanced renewable fuels.

Since 2009 USDA has supported more than 130 biodiesel and ethanol projects that are currently producing 3.7 billion gallons of fuel per year. That’s enough fuel – in equivalence to gasoline – to keep 5 million vehicles on the road every year.

USDA coordinated five regional research centers to work on the science necessary to ensure profitable biofuels can be produced from a diverse range of feedstocks in every part of our nation.

USDA invested more than $320 million to accelerate research on renewable energy, including genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops and development of biofuel conversion processes.

And under President Obama the U.S. EPA recently eliminated the last federal hurdle standing between consumers and an increased, 15 percent ethanol fuel. This will help further boost our renewable fuel capacity, give the American consumer a real choice at the pump, and help create even more sustainable rural jobs that can’t be exported.

With accomplishments like these and results across the administration to innovate advanced fuels, it’s no surprise that we’re importing less oil today. In fact, in 2011 America imported about 45 percent of our oil from foreign countries – down from about 60 percent in 2005.

Home-grown renewable energy is one part of that success, and we won’t let up in helping further promote the development of advanced renewable energy – to bring down gas prices for families, to increase America’s energy capacity, and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.