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Study Shows Strong Farm Bill Energy Programs Would Help Curb Global Warming

Congress Must Invest at Least $1 Billion a Year in Energy Title to Benefit Environment, National Security and Rural America

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CHICAGO, IL – A new study shows that farm-based renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the U.S. Farm Bill could reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 57 million metric tons a year – the equivalent of eliminating the pollution from over 11 million cars.

The study, “Mitigating Global Warming through the Farm Bill,” is the first to examine the potential greenhouse gas savings of the Farm Bill Energy Title. The study assumes funding of at least $1 billion a year, or $5 billion over the five-year life of the legislation, which is less than 2% of the total Farm Bill Budget. The programs in the Energy Title encourage development of farm-based and rural renewable power generation, biofuels facilities, and energy efficiency projects that provide low-carbon energy alternatives.

“Now is the time for Congress to fight global warming through innovative farm policy,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), which conducted the study. “In a time of rising concern over the causes and consequences of global warming, these programs can put our nation on the right track.”

The 2002 Farm Bill, now up for re-authorization in Congress, included a modestly-funded Energy Title for the first time, helping farmers and rural businesses develop profitable clean energy sources such as wind power, solar energy, energy efficiency, and biofuels. These highly successful programs can fight global warming, spur economic development in rural communities, and improve our national energy security.

“This study shows how robust clean energy programs in the Farm Bill can counter global warming while helping farm families and rural communities,” said Charles Kubert, Senior Environmental Business Specialist at ELPC and lead researcher on the study. “This study will crystallize some of the choices Congress is making in the Farm Bill deliberations.”

“Global warming is an increasingly urgent problem, and this Farm Bill will shape our agricultural policy for the next five years and beyond. Let’s hope Americans look back later and are grateful for the foresight of this Congress,” said John Moore, Senior Attorney at ELPC.

“The 2007 Farm Bill could lay the foundation for the future of agriculture in this country, encouraging sustainable farming practices while building up rural communities. It’s a win-win-win for the environment, rural America, and energy policy. Congress needs to make renewable energy and energy efficiency priorities. Let’s not miss this opportunity,” concluded Learner.

According to the ELPC report, greenhouse gas reductions will come from the following places in the Energy Title:

  • Farm-Based Power – wind/solar/biogas/biofuels/energy efficiency 
  • Commercializing new energy crops 
  • Upgrading power plants to use energy crops instead of fossil fuels 
  • Advanced clean fuels production 
  • Energy technical assistance (saving energy and investing in clean energy)

The Farm Bill Energy Title drives investment primarily in the following technologies, which form the basis of the study’s analysis and conclusions:

  • Wind power. A one megawatt (MW) wind turbine, which generates no greenhouse gas pollution, can displace approximately 1,600 metric tons of CO2 each year. 
  • Anaerobic Digesters. An average anaerobic digester that processes livestock manure waste can capture methane and generate up to 2,900 megawatt-hours of electricity, thereby potentially displacing about 4,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent annually. 
  • Corn Ethanol. Corn and grain-derived ethanol has the potential to reduce relative greenhouse gas emissions by 18% to 29% compared with gasoline. 
  • Cellulosic Ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol has the potential to displace 85-90% of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with gasoline.
  • Biodiesel. Biodiesel has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 80% compared with petroleum diesel fuel. 
  • Energy Efficiency. Improving on-farm and rural business energy efficiency can avoid carbon pollution by reducing use of diesel fuel in farm equipment and by reducing electricity, natural gas and propane use.
  • Biomass and Geothermal. These systems generate thermal energy for heating and cooling purposes, displacing greenhouse gases primarily from natural-gas fired systems. 
  • Solar technologies. The sun generates electric power and thermal energy without pollution.

Many farm energy, and environmental groups support a robust, well-funded energy title.

The study, entitled “Mitigating Global Warming Through the Farm Bill: Measuring the Potential Greenhouse Gas Savings of the Farm Bill’s Energy Title Programs,” is available at www.farmenergy.org.

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