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Q&A, Twitter-style

USDA had another historic first – “virtual office hours” April 5 with live Q&A with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack – 140 characters at a time on Twitter.
By Susanne Retka Schill | April 09, 2012

USDA had another historic first –  “virtual office hours” April 5 with live Q&A with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack – 140 characters at a time on Twitter.  

The first question?  “Why are we still making ethanol from corn, after it has been proven to be extremely inefficient?”

The answer:  A1: Research allows more efficient production w corn, USDA significantly expanding new feedstocks. More to come. TJV

Biofuels were prominent.

Q2: Biodiesel output hit a record last year: how important are tax credits to maintaining/building the industry?

A2: When tax credits expired production dropped off. Impt for Congress to continue the cellulosic tax credit. Jobs at stake. TJV

Q3: What role can the public health community play in supporting renewable energy?

A3: Support RFS2, reaching goal will reduce emissions equal to 27 million cars off the road. TJV

More snippet Tweets:

Q5: How soon do you see E15 integrating into the market place?

A5: EPA announcement launches 1st E15 certification – good news. Need to expand quickly, could help reduce #gasprices. TJV

Q6: Can you talking about the role the farm bill plays in promoting biofuels and bioenergy.

A6: 2008 #farmbill created and funded multiple programs from research to building biorefineries 1/2 TJV

A6 2/2: Problem Congress did not fund thru entire #farmbill. Serious challenges to cont. Need flexibility in other programs. TJV

Q12: ethanol & biodiesel LOWER cost of fuel from foreign oil. Why Congress hostile? Why admin not more supportive?

A12: ISU study indicates $0.80-$1.30 savings per gallon. 5 regional research ctrs + 5 biorefineries assisted + 235 biz grants TJV

A12 cont +50K acres new feedstock developed +retrofit to existing facilities + support for cont incentives +blender pump support TJV

Q7: Curious. What’s the rationale behind virtual office hours? Seems like a cool idea!

A7: Need to go where the people are. Always a good idea to educate even if it’s only in 140 characters. TJV

Informative? Only if you know little about the subjects touched. Nothing like 140 character limit to cut to the chase.

Staged? Maybe. You try typing “$0.80-$1.30 savings per gallon. 5 regional research ctrs + 5 biorefineries assisted + 235 biz grants”  TJV at least had help. Somebody cutting and pasting from a prepared list.

Conclusion? Biofuels still a hot topic. Corn ethanol detractors still active. USDA still good promoters.

Effective? Remains to be seen.

Stay tuned. #askUSDA will be back in May. Check out Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/usda/    

Egads! It’s going to take me a week to shake Twitter-speak.