The overriding theme from speakers at the Midwest Ag Energy Conference in
Kickoff speaker was Rod Nilsestuen, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. He pointed out that "at long last the nation has recognized this (solving the energy crisis) is critical for the future of our nation." He said it is significant that six
"The quest for a sustainable energy program is much more important that going to the moon was 25 years ago," said Randy Udall, son of the late Arizona U.S. Rep. Morris Udall. "Even at today's prices, energy is still extraordinarily inexpensive in the
Udall emphasized, however, that fuels such as hydrogen, which takes an enormous amount of energy to produce, won't play a role in the future. "Even corn ethanol, which is currently expanding in production around the
David Morris, vice president of the Institute for Self Reliance, and the author of "Driving Our Way to Energy Independence, said "Congress has mandated a six-fold increase in bio fuels, two thirds of which will be produced using a technology that has not yet been developed and a feedstock that has not yet been identified.
"If the forces of this production are locally owned," Morris added, "the benefit to the economy of local communities is 20% higher. If the investment in these facilities is locally owned, they're politically easier to build -- and the investments are long term.
"Wall Street is now involved," he continued. "So investment policies based solely on tax investment credits, by their nature, attract absentee owners looking for ways to reduce their taxes — and people who maximize their value by investing, then selling, the assets.
"There are other ways Congress can create incentives and subsidies to build biofuels systems other than tax breaks that will have far more economic benefit to far more people," he said.
The numbers — and the potential — are staggering, he added. "If the United States builds enough biofuel plants to produce 20 billion gallons of ethanol fuel, policies to create local ownership could produce as many as 30,000 owners, nearly the equivalent of the number of the nation's full-time grain farmers."
The conference, called "Next Generation Ag Energy -- Policies to Advance Regional Growth" -- continues through Wednesday.