The National 25x’25 Alliance Monday recognized Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar for his committed leadership in pursuing polices that accelerate the development of renewable energy resources on the nation’s farms, ranches and forestlands.
Last week, Sen. Lugar joined with Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) in drafting an amendment to the proposed 2012 Farm Bill adopted by the Senate Agriculture Committee that would continue mandatory funding for a number of critical farm energy programs.
By forging language in the Energy Title of the new farm bill that would assure funding is available for a initiatives such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Bioenergy Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Lugar is encouraging the development of advanced biofuels and promoting other renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural America that will create new jobs and breath life back into the nation’s still struggling economy.
The Conrad-Lugar amendment would set mandatory funding totaling $241 million over five years for Rural Energy for America Program and $193 million for Bioenergy Crop Assistance Program. Another $216 million would be required over the life of the new farm bill for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, $130 million for the Biomass Research and Development Program, while $15 million would be allotted for the Biobased Markets Program, and $5 million for a Biodiesel Education Program.
The programs, which have no authorization beyond the Sept. 30 expiration of the current farm adopted in 2008, are zeroed out under Congressional Budget Office baseline estimates, leaving them vulnerable in the upcoming appropriations process. If adopted, Lugar’s amendment would avert the possibility of appropriators setting aside little or no money for programs that have helped revitalize rural America, allowed new agricultural markets to emerge and reduced the need for direct payments to farmers.
Lugar is an original sponsor of the 25x’25 resolution adopted as part of the 2007 Energy Bill signed into law by then-President Bush. The measure adopts as the nation’s goal the attainment of 25 percent of U.S. energy needs with renewable resources – biofuels, biomass, wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy and hydropower – from U.S. farms, ranches and forestlands by the year 2025.
“We are very grateful for Sen. Lugar’s efforts on behalf of energy programs that benefit farmers across the nation,” said Bill Richards, a co-chair of the National 25x’25 Steering Committee. “The senator’s foresight and legislative initiatives have served to boost the economy and help create and retain jobs in our state’s rural communities.”
Lugar was also successful in adding to the proposed, five-year farm legislation a provision that authorizes funding for a Rural Energy Savings Program. The initiative would allow rural electric cooperatives to provide customers with low-interest loans for energy efficiency upgrades, to be paid back on monthly electric bills.
The latest measures sponsored by Lugar underscore his contributions to the nation’s pursuit of a clean energy future. For more than a decade, Lugar has stressed the strategic importance of energy security and the economic and security risks of dependence on oil. His legislative efforts promote sustainable energy production and use, incentives for renewable fuels like cellulosic ethanol and E85, and increased fuel economy in cars.