Renewable Energy Growing
by Senator Troy Fraser
Farmers are no longer solely focused on putting food on America's tables. Now they are looking at putting fuel in your automobile and electricity in your home. Farmers are no longer just in the agricultural business, they are in agribusiness, and there are plenty of opportunities in renewable energy.
Each Fall, farmers across this nation make their planting decisions for the coming year. How many acres of corn? Of soybean? Usually the demand for food drives these decisions, but in recent years the demand for ethanol, a fuel made from corn, has entered into the equation.
Ethanol and biodiesel are the two most common types of biofuels, but other sources such as food crops, grassy and woody plants, residues from agriculture and forestry, and even the fumes from landfills can also be used. For biomass fuels, the feedstocks are corn (for ethanol) and soybeans (for biodiesel), both surplus crops.
The allure of biofuels in the United States is a result of policies aimed at reducing the country's dependence on imported oil, while at the same time reducing emissions of air pollution. Both the federal government, through the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and state governments are driving the increased production and use of biofuels across the country.
In April of 2006, there were 53 plants in 26 states producing biodiesel from soybean oil, multi-feedstock, recycled cooking oil, beef tallow and cottonseed oil. Of the 53 plants, 11 of them are located in Texas.
Texas continues to lead the nation in the production of renewable energy and it isn't just in biofuels. Last year, I authored Senate Bill 20 which moved Texas to the forefront of the nation for renewable standards. SB 20 increases the energy produced by renewable resources -- such as wind and solar energy -- and gives Texas the second-highest renewable energy standard in the country.
Some farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to lease land to utility companies for the installation of large wind turbines. Wind farms are becoming prevalent across this state. Wind turbines are popping up from the panhandle to off our Gulf Coast beaches -- making Texas a nationwide leader in the development of wind energy.
The development of renewable resources, whether they are wind, solar or biofuels, is a good public policy decision for the state. This will create more jobs and help reduce air pollution as we find ways to ease our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are the key to creating a clean energy future for not only our state, but our nation. Texas farms are center stage in the production of renewable energy, placing economic security for rural Texans hand in hand with the nation's energy independence.
Senator Fraser represents a 21-county region in the geographic center of the state. He is the Chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. He also sits on the following standing Senate Committees: Natural Resources, State Affairs, and International Relations and Trade.