Biofuels were a topic of discussion during Tuesday’s Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing for Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary. Following four years of the Trump administration and the influx of small refinery waivers, and reduced volume targets under the Obama administration, the biofuels industry is seeking certainty in the Biden administration.
Joe Biden’s agenda includes significantly addressing climate change, and that includes the future of electric vehicles, an issue that has the potential irony to unite the oil and biofuels industry, following years of disagreement. Speaking during the hearing, Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, posed this question; “Will you be directing the USDA to purchase Tesla trucks that run on electricity, or will you be supporting our farmers in purchasing Ford F150’s that run on E85?” Vilsack: “Senator, I don’t think its and either-or circumstance, I think there’s an opportunity to advance both. I mean, the reality is we’re going to need biofuels and the biofuel industry for the foreseeable future.”
Vilsack cites the number of older cars on the road, including his own 2006 Ford Focus, as reasoning for both, biofuel powered vehicles and electric cars, “There are so many, many, Americans like me and my wife who have cars that are six, seven, eight, ten, 12 years old. And the reality is that we’re going to need both.”
Vilsack also pledged to focus on racial justice within USDA, along with climate change, developing new markets and removing barriers to nutrition assistance programs.