Obama Rural Tour Continues

August 16, 2011 06:36 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Says U.S. must start using refuse, not food to create energy

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

President Obama held town hall style meetings in Minnesota and Iowa Monday as he continues his three-day bus tour of rural America.

In his Minnesota stop, the president talked about a host of topics including renewable energy and commented the technology on biofuels is "moving where we need to start taking advantage of a whole range of biofuels, using refuse, using stuff that we don’t use for food to create energy."

Update: The Obama Administration today said it will "advance a major initiative to produce next generation aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. The initiative responds to a directive from President Obama issued in March as part of his Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future, the administration's framework for reducing dependence on foreign oil. The biofuels initiative is being steered by the White House Biofuels Interagency Work Group and Rural Council." Link for details.

Obama also talked about providing more funding for beginning and disadvantaged farmers, commenting that "if you’re not a mega-farm, a lot of times you get squeezed." He didn’t mention the coming farm bill debate as a way to help focus on the administration’s goals.

Obama will announce that USDA and the Small Business Administration will hold a series of conferences to attract venture capital to rural areas, and that USDA field offices will now have access to Labor Department job training resources.

The president has also ordered that more hospitals should be made eligible to receive loans to hire new doctors, and the administration will be making loans available for rural hospitals to invest in information technology upgrades.

The following is from a White House transcript of comments made Monday by President Obama:

Renewable energy

THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is a great question, especially for rural communities all across America. Tom Vilsack, who was the former governor of Iowa, knows a little bit about agriculture. And so when I put Tom in as the head of the Department of Agriculture, one of the first things we talked about was, how can we mobilize the incredible resourcefulness and hard work of rural communities all across this country, not just to create jobs, but also to win back energy independence. And as a consequence, we have put billions of dollars into energy research and to help move in a direction of greater reliance on fuels that are homegrown.

So let me give you a couple of examples. One, obviously, is biofuels. And a lot of folks here are familiar with corn-based ethanol, but the fact of the matter is the technology is moving where we need to start taking advantage of a whole range of biofuels, using refuse, using stuff that we don’t use for food to create energy. And we are seeing incredible progress on that front, but it’s key to make sure that we continue to make the research and that we also use the incredible purchasing power of the federal government to encourage it.

So one of the things that I know we’re doing is we’re actually working with the Department of Defense to start saying, let’s run some of these -- let me just say this: The Department of Defense uses a lot of fuel, so the question is, can we get trucks and jeeps and, in some cases, even fighter jets running on alternative fuels, which is important for our national security but also could provide an incredible boost to communities all across Minnesota, all across the country?

The other thing that we have to do is look at things like wind power and solar power and the next generation of electric vehicles. You will recall when I came into office they were talking about the liquidation of GM and Chrysler, and a lot of folks said, you can’t help them, and it’s a waste of the government’s money to try to help them. But what I said was, we can’t afford to lose up to a million jobs in this country, particularly in the Midwest, but we also can’t afford to lose leadership in terms of building an auto industry that we used to own.

And so we turned around those auto companies -- they are now making a profit for the first time in decades, they’re gaining market share for the first time in years. (Applause.) But what we said was, if we’re going to help you, then you’ve also got to change your ways. You can’t just make money on SUVs and trucks. There’s a place for SUVs and trucks, but as gas prices keep on going up, you’ve got to understand the market -- people are going to be trying to save money.

And so what we’ve now seen is an investment in electric vehicles, and then what we did was we put investments in something called advanced battery manufacturing, because those electric cars, how well they run depends on how good the batteries are -- how long they can run before they get recharged. We only had 2 percent of the advanced battery manufacturing market when I came into office. We’re on track now to have 30, 40, 50 percent of that market. (Applause.) We are making batteries here in the United States of America that go into electric cars made here in the United States of America. It creates jobs, and it creates -- (applause) -- and it creates energy independence, and it also improves our environment.

So that’s the kind of approach that we have to take -- using the private sector, understanding that ultimately the private sector is going to be creating jobs, but also understanding that the government can be an effective partner in that process. And nowhere is that more true than in rural America. So, great question. (Applause.)

Question/statement on agriculture

THE PRESIDENT: You bet. You bet. You know, one thing that I think is worth noting, because -- again, I’m going to brag on Vilsack here, because he’s done a great job -- through the Department of Agriculture, we’ve provided $5 billion in assistance, in terms of loans and other forms of assistance, to small and medium-sized farmers all across the country. And that creates a lot of jobs.

One of our great strengths as a country is agriculture. And one of the pledges that I made when I came into office was we’re going to double our exports. And a big component of that is agricultural exports. And so far, we’ve seen agricultural exports rise to over $100 billion. It creates over two -- that means over 800,000 jobs all across America. But the fact of the matter is, is that a lot of family farmers are still struggling. And so one of the things that we’re going to be talking about during this tour -- and we’ve got a big roundtable discussion tomorrow, drawing on the work that our Rural Council did -- is how we can make sure that we can get more capital to small farmers; how can we help young farmers who want to go into farming be able to buy land because land prices have gone up so high; how can we make sure that they’re able to market their products effectively, because right now, if you’re not a mega-farm, a lot of times you get squeezed.

So there are a lot of things that we can be doing to help the farm economy. And if you help the farm economy in rural communities, you help the economy of entire states. And if you help entire states, then that’s good for the country as a whole. So thank you for what you do. (Applause.)


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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