Table Of Contents
Renewable biomass has a significant potential to improve U.S. energy security, advance rural economic development and energy security, protect and restore water quality and other environmental resources, and help mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. The 2008 Farm Bill energy programs were designed to help address these issues, and they are just beginning to make a difference. A relatively small public investment (less than $2 billion over five years) has gone a long way, and it has been multiplied many-fold by other matching public and private investments.
Perennial and short-rotation biomass energy crops are now being established across thousands of acres of marginal lands from Oregon to Pennsylvania and across the South, and these project areas will soon be supplying biomass-to-energy conversion facilities nearby to produce biofuels, heat, power, and bio-based products. The production of advanced biofuels and bio-based alternatives to petroleum are at the cusp of ramping up to commercial scale. And, hundreds of agricultural producers, rural businesses, communities, and institutions are developing local renewable biomass energy resources for heat and power in place of much more expensive heating oil, propane, and electricity.
All of this has been stimulated by federal research and development, educational agricultural extension, grants, low-cost loans, loan guarantees, and production tax credits provided in the 2008 Farm Bill. However, another five years of support is critically needed—so that the full public benefits of these initial investments can be realized, and so that rural America can begin to fulfill its tremendous potential to address these pressing national challenges.