Energy Lobbying Today: One goal of U.S. Energy policy is to achieve enhanced energy security by reducing our dependence on foreign petroleum. In 2007, Congress adopted the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) that establishes a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS-2). This RFS mandates that the U.S. increase the volume of biofuel that is blended with fuel from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. This energy policy must be achieved by appropriately balancing the available farmland used to produce crops for biofuels and global food supplies. Fortunately, in more recent years we have witnessed the enhanced research and development efforts that are currently being directed toward the production of second generation biofuel energy that are produced from non-food crops (like algae), crop residues (like corn stover) and waste (like methane gas).
In the 2008 Congress enacted changes to conservation programs allowing the installation of wind turbines on enrolled acreages in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). While Farm Bill conservation programs contribute significantly to conservation on private lands by reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, and enhancing ecosystems, working conservation lands may also prove beneficial to achieving our energy independence goals. Across the U.S., 33.62 million acres are enrolled in the program where owners receive a per acre rental payment. Those with enrolled acres may choose to install wind turbines to generate energy but in turn will receive a reduction in their rental payment. The total program cost for CRP in FY 2009 was $1.95 billion.
Land designated for the Conservation Reserve Program could prove more useful for the future production of non-food crop bio-energy. Specifically, crops like switchgrass can be grown on CRP land and used for biofuel production. Planting switchgrass maintains the same environmental benefits achieved in the current Conservation Reserve Program.
As energy independence has long been a goal of many presidential administrations, it is vital that the federal government facilitate long-term technological advances using incentives like tax credits and research and development funds. Moreover, by revamping current federal programs to allow for the production and movement of alternative energy technologies, the federal financial burden would be decreased while allowing private business and citizens to flourish.
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