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Home » Agriculture, BioRefineries, Business News/Analysis, Federal Agency, Federal Legislation, Funding/Financing/Investing, Opinions, Policy, White House

Energy Programs Should Be Fully Funded and Enhanced in the 2018 Farm Bill

Submitted by on February 13, 2018 – 2:35 pmNo Comment

by Jeremy Gilpin, Jordan Blanchard, and Cindy Thyfault (National Rural Lenders Association/Biofuels Digest)  There has been a keen focus the last few weeks for President Trump and the USDA with the release of the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Report, President Trump’s recent speech to the Farm Bureau, and the release from USDA of the 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles.

There are threads of support for biotechnology, rural prosperity, well-paying jobs, transportation, renewables, and export competitiveness which are all essential building blocks in the larger arena of developing and commercializing new biofuels, biochemical, and value-added bio-products, as well as utilizing commercial renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

 In a recent White Paper released by the Ag Energy Coalition entitled , Rural America’s Role in Expanding Energy Independence, Dominance, Innovation and Jobs: Recommendations for the New Farm Bill, there is a massive growth opportunity for rural America that include next-generation biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products from feedstocks such as dedicated energy crops, cellulosic waste, and municipal solid waste that can provide new revenue streams and expand opportunities for value-added agriculture throughout the United States as well as accessing global markets. It also means new “cash crops” for rural communities via electricity generated from wind, solar, biomass, hydro, and geothermal resources. Smart energy efficiency measures save farmers, ranchers, and other citizens and rural small businesses money, improving bottom lines.

It is important for NRLA and for our 9003 applicants to see a long-term, stable program be funded at $1 Billion of lending authority in the 2018 Farm Bill (at the current subsidy rate, this would be approximately $200 to $250 million in appropriations) for several reasons cited below.

Unfortunately, there was a time lag in completing a new Final Rule for this program that slowed down the processing of loans through the USDA. However, we support the new 2-tiered system has been created, and it is working well to move these projects through the rigorous review process and into loan closing.

A request that NRLA would make of Congress is to assist in modifying and clarifying the language for renewable chemicals in two regards – Enhance and revise the definition of “renewable chemicals” and “biorefinery” within Section 9001 in the new Farm Bill language to allow standalone renewable chemical manufacturing facilities the ability to receive loan guarantees without producing advanced biofuels.

The NRLA also strongly supports the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and it is also important for the NRLA and for our REAP applicants to see a long-term, stable program be funded at $34 million annually for grants and $400 million of guaranteed loan lending authority annually ($16 million of appropriations annually at a subsidy rate of 4 percent in the current program) the 2018 Farm Bill for several reasons cited below.

NRLA is also requesting to eliminate the “small business” size standards for REAP loan guarantees (which will result in eliminating the current SBA size standards requirement). 

NRLA also requests that the classification for solar farms of 100 acres or less as a Categorical Exclusion in the NEPA process. Currently it is 10 acres or less.     READ MORE

Rural Energy for America Program – Driving Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency Investments (Environmental and Energy Study Institute)

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