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Renewable energy initiative aims to ease off oil

How the 25x"25 energy initiative proposes the U.S. reduce its reliance on oil

As gas prices continue to climb, agriculture and forestry leaders are working to find ways to use their land to make fuel.

Soon the group will be in Washington, D.C., to rally support for a legislative initiative calling for 25 percent of the nation’s fuel needs to come from renewable resources by 2025. The plan — dubbed 25x’25 — urges the use of ethanol, wind and solar power and other forms of energy, such as fuel made from livestock waste.

Sara Wyant, 48, of St. Charles, is part of that group. The only woman on the 25x’25 group, she has been involved with the effort since 2004. Noting that only 6 percent of the nation’s energy needs comes from renewable resources, Wyant said the 25x’25 effort would help farmers, who would make money off their crops, and other Americans, who want cheaper fuel. And the country would be less dependent on foreign oil.

Wyant, who grew up on a farm in Marengo, Ind., publishes an electronic newsletter about agricultural and rural policy and has been covering those issues since 1980.

Following are excerpts from a recent interview:

Q. What is 25x’25?

A. It is a vision that by 2025 America’s farm, forests and ranches will provide 25 percent of the total U.S. energy supply from renewable... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

As gas prices continue to climb, agriculture and forestry leaders are working to find ways to use their land to make fuel.
 
Soon the group will be in Washington, D.C., to rally support for a legislative initiative calling for 25 percent of the nation’s fuel needs to come from renewable resources by 2025. The plan — dubbed 25x’25 — urges the use of ethanol, wind and solar power and other forms of energy, such as fuel made from livestock waste.
 
Sara Wyant, 48, of St. Charles, is part of that group. The only woman on the 25x’25 group, she has been involved with the effort since 2004. Noting that only 6 percent of the nation’s energy needs comes from renewable resources, Wyant said the 25x’25 effort would help farmers, who would make money off their crops, and other Americans, who want cheaper fuel. And the country would be less dependent on foreign oil.
 
Wyant, who grew up on a farm in Marengo, Ind., publishes an electronic newsletter about agricultural and rural policy and has been covering those issues since 1980.
 
Following are excerpts from a recent interview:
 
Q. What is 25x’25?
 
A. It is a vision that by 2025 America’s farm, forests and ranches will provide 25 percent of the total U.S. energy supply from renewable resources. By renewable we mean a whole portfolio of things that can be grown and renewed every year, such as corn for ethanol, switchgrass for ethanol, soybeans for bio diesel, wind, solar and geothermal energy and bio gas that can be produced from livestock waste.
 
Q. What is the (Washington, D.C. launch) event about?
 
A. What we’re planning to do is a national rollout of the vision as a congressional resolution. We have a bipartisan group of senators and representatives who will introduce a resolution in both the House and Senate — at the same time, we hope — that creates a national goal and puts everyone on record that this is our vision for the country.
 
We really think you need to start with a realistic goal then move our country toward figuring out how to reach that goal. … We think that if we act with vision and determination that we can really move our country forward on greater dependence on renewable energy that is made right here and as a result of that lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
 
Q. Who supports 25x’25 in Congress and in statehouses?
 
A. The members who are supporting are both Republicans and Democrats. Leaders in the Senate are Sen. Charles Grassley (an Iowa Republican) and Sen. Ken Salazur (a Colorado Democrat).
 
Our goal is to have half of the members of Congress in support by year’s end. We think that’s possible. There’s a tremendous amount of interest in this right now. We already have interest from about eight senators and over a dozen House members. I think it’s going to move pretty quickly.
 
It’s been kind of phenomenal to watch the people who have lined up behind us.
 
(Wyant noted that governors in six states — Indiana, Nebraska, Florida, Pennsylvania, Montana and Minnesota — also support the group’s goals.)
 
Q. Do you have support on this goal from President Bush?
 
A. We do know that even though President Bush has been associated with the oil industry, he’s been a strong champion for renewables. He’s always championed ethanol and in his State of the Union address … he said he wanted to reduce our imported oil from the Middle East by 75 percent by 2025. We took that as a pretty good sign that we’re in the same ballpark.
 
(She noted that members of the 25x’25 committee have meetings set up with White House staff to discuss the initiative.)
 
Q. Talking about renewable energy is good, but how realistic is this? Will this be hard to sell to the American public? Do you have big industries on board such as automakers and electric utilities?
 
A. We have a corporate leadership council, and the lead sponsor on that is John Deere. We have major agri-businesses who also have expressed support. We have set up meetings with automakers to see if they would officially endorse. (It was announced last week that the Big Three automakers endorse the plan).
 
It’s very achievable. It’s not going to be simple. We’re talking about making some very major changes in the way we think about our ability to produce energy. … It’s going to take some American ingenuity and committing ourselves to this national goal and working on a bipartisan basis to get the job done.
 
Moving from the current level of 6 percent (of our energy coming from renewable resources) to 25 percent is a really big step. We’re very upfront about this.
 
Q. What about groups that say the answer to our energy problems is to build more power plants and drill more oil?
 
A. I think there’s a role for a lot of diversity on that. Our group has not taken a stance on additional drilling. We want to build the renewable portion of the market because we know there are a number of benefits to that.
 
Q. How do you farm and produce both fuel and food? Would we need more farmland to accomplish this goal?
 
A. As part of this goal we believe that farmers can produce not only food and feed as they have been, but also fuel. The way that is possible is smarter utilization of our current land resources.
 
Improvement in productivity and technology is going to drive efficiency in some of this. Corn yields already are ramping up in ways we probably wouldn’t have expected; in the last 20 years they have increased by 40 percent.
 
We’ve made conversions before in the farm industry. I don’t know how the conversion is going to happen, but as the demand for renewables continues, I think you’re going to see new crops being produced.
 
Q. Is there anything we can do now?
 
A. The first thing every American who is concerned about high energy prices can do is to go tour our Web site (www.25x25.org) and sign on as an endorser of 25x’25. By doing that you’re signaling you want to be part of the solution.
 
They can also try to buy more green energy. When you fill up your tank, fill up with renewables (provided you have a car that is compatible).
 
Q. What will it take to implement this goal?
 
A. There is going to be more work as we introduce the national goal.
 
Then we’re going to get all the groups who have endorsed to ask them to help with the implementation strategy. We want people to come to the table to say they want tax incentives, more research or they want investment or infrastructure to move the fuel. There are a whole host of issues going from A to Z, and that’s what we want our implementation team to decide.
 
We wanted the goal to come first to put everyone on the same page and then build around that.
 
Q. What problems do you face?
 
A. The biggest one will be conquering the naysayers who suggest that it can’t be done. We often get questions from folks who want to know if it’s really achievable. Sometimes people forget that it takes a big bold vision to rally the collective interest of Americans. Whether it was Dwight Eisenhower saying we needed an interstate highway system or JFK saying we needed to put a man on the moon, historically when we think big and put our resources and minds behind a vision we can get there.
 
Q. What type of objections have you had?
 
A. Historically there have been objections from the oil and gas industries, which have been somewhat concerned that this would be a threat. I think even they have turned around. The challenges and fears the oil industry has had in the past are going by the wayside now that they understand the market is big enough and we are welcoming all the players. There’s really a lot of room because there is so much demand.


Source: http://www.dailyherald.com...

MAY 22 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2728-renewable-energy-initiative-aims-to-ease-off-oil
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