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Putting Energy in the Farm Bill

Congress is assembling a new Farm Bill, and one discussion is whether to keep the bill’s Energy Title, a section that for 10 years has been leveraging the power of America’s agricultural industry to wean us from our dependence on foreign oil.

Like most biofuel industries, the algae industry has made great strides in the past few years developing products that can supplement U.S. fossil fuel supplies.  Algae-based fuel is domestically produced and can be used directly in place of existing transportation fuels.

The work done by ABO members has significantly increased the likelihood that algae-based fuel will be commercial in the next five to ten years.

To keep that momentum going America must keep a long-term perspective on biofuels, just as we have when developing the technology to tap into other sources of energy.

One example of past technology development can be found in enhanced oil recovery techniques. According to a Congressional Research Service report (PDF), “Interest in U.S. oil sand deposits dates back to the 1930s.  Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, 52 pilot projects involving mining and in-situ techniques were supported by the U.S. government. . .”

Furthermore, according to a Department of Energy Report (PDF), “As early as the 1940’s the U.S. Department of the Interior. . . was engaged in oil shale research. . . [and] DOE has had a Shale Oil program since the 1970’s.”

In other words, the federal government has been supporting oil sand research and development for over 50 years. It has supported shale oil research and development for over 60 years. Eliminating the Energy Title from the Farm Bill after only 10 years would come in sharp contrast to the government support afforded other sources of fuel.

We expect that in less than a decade the biofuels industry will be contributing significantly to America’s energy supply.  However, federal support through the Farm Bill Energy Title with mandatory spending is critical to our continued success.

The Farm Bill Energy Programs will continue to create American jobs.  They will support the research, development, deployment and commercialization of domestically produced transportation fuels.  They will, without a doubt, be a key element of America’s energy independence.

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