Going Green Could Boost the U.S. Economy, Create Jobs and Benefit Agriculture

Now that a new administration is in place, things are going to change. One of the things President Barack Obama plans to do is request congressional approval to invest $150 billion over 10 years on clean energy initiatives.

Some of these initiatives include expanding the biofuels and fuel infrastructure, advancing commercialization of hybrids, developing renewable energy and making the transition to a new digital electricity grid. This investment in clean energy reportedly could help Americans reduce greenhouse gas consumption by roughly 10 percent each year. If this proposal passes, it could create or sustain more than 3 million jobs across the nation.

Groups like the Environment America have made plans and recommendations for Obama’s green investment in addition to 29 other environmental groups that released a comprehensive report stating a list of actions and policies they would like to see implemented after Obama takes office.

The full report, which can be found here, was developed by 29 environmental advocacy groups including Center for International Environmental Law, League of Conservation Voters, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Population Action International. The report discusses the need for investment in the creation of jobs in the renewable energy sector, building weatherization, a retooled auto industry, investment in infrastructure and major improvements to the electrical grid. The report also outlined what every federal branch agency, department and office can do on a number of other environmental issues.

Agriculture issues are also very important to these 29 environmental groups. The five issues listed for the Department of Agriculture are animal and plant health inspection service, farm service agency, forest service, natural resources conservation service and research, education and economics. Some of their goals include reinvigorating the conservation reserve program, halting policies that promote native grassland conversion and improving conservation compliance.

Environment America, a non-profit advocacy group with offices in 27 states and Washington, D.C., released a report, which can be found here on Jan. 13 that describes the benefits and recommendations regarding Obama’s $150 billion investment including weatherizing U.S. homes and businesses, training workers for new clean energy industries and increasing public transportation capacity to meet growing demand.

“Our nation can no longer afford the toll dirty energy is exacting on our environment and economy,” said Amy Gomberg, program director with Environment Ohio, a chapter of Environment America. “Clean energy can protect our environment and rev our economic engine to generate a brighter future for Ohio.”

According to Environment Ohio, Ohio is one of the most energy-dependent states in America. Each year, Ohio sends billions of dollars out of state to support our addiction to those fossil fuels.

In Ohio, several companies such as Jennings Heating are eager and ready to contribute to the economy’s green efforts.

“I’m just so excited by this plan,” said Mike Foraker, chief executive officer of Jennings Heating. “I’m extremely impressed and believe this plan does the job.”

Besides Ohio, numerous states across the nation have already begun planning how they will utilize the $150 billion.

In Maryland, some of the projects planned are a $5.5 million energy-efficient overhaul to all the state’s police barracks and funding for solar and geothermal systems.

Michigan officials have set a goal of increasing its use of renewable energy by 15 percent by the year 2015 and overall working to use less energy.

According to Environment Iowa, in Iowa alone, this investment by the year 2020 will create an average of 3,000 jobs annually, increase wages up to $42 million per year and save consumers over $1 billion on energy costs.

What do you think? Will President Obama get this initiative passed in Congress? Do you think green initiatives will help pull the nation out of this economic downturn? How will initiatives affect the agriculture industry? Let me know your thoughts.

Welcome Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

On Jan. 20, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office along with the new cabinet Obama has chosen. Among the new cabinet members is Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

He will have the responsibility of developing federal policy on farming, agriculture, food and food safety. It will also be his duty to re-examine the nation’s biofuel policy.

Vilsack’s political career started in 1987 when he ran for mayor in Mount Pleasant, Iowa and served three terms. Vilsack was elected to the state Senate in 1992 and re-elected in 1994. He made his mark shaping tax-cut and economic-development legislation for the Democratic majority.

In 1998, Vilsack was elected Iowa’s governor, the first Democrat to win in 32 years. He won the election with strong support from organized labor and called his win a "victory for Iowa’s working- and middle-class families." He promised to focus on education, health care, the environment, a fair tax system, property-tax relief and keeping young people in Iowa. In 2008, he briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, but ended his bid and endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Vilsack was orphaned at birth and raised by a Pittsburgh family. He received a Bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in New York and received a J.D. from Albany Law School.

Numerous farm groups and lawyers approve of Obama’s decision to appoint Vilsack. Democrats and Republicans alike believe his experience as Iowa governor will be to the nation’s advantage.

“His nomination is a positive thing for the state of Iowa and agriculture in general,” said Iowa state Rep. David Tjepkes, R-Gowie. “He has valuable experience with renewable energy, conservation and rural development programs.”

“He has a good basic foundation in farm issues,” said Iowa state Rep. Dolores Mertz, D-Ottosen. “He’ll have a solid working relationship with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.”

Environmentalists also support Obama’s choice.

“We’re encouraged by it,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. “He thinks we need to reform the subsidy system, recognizes the importance of the food programs and he’s very good on conservation.”

Commodity and agriculture analysts believe that Vilsack will have to act fast on unimplemented farm subsidies and lower crop prices, as well as manage controversies over trade, food safety and animal welfare. Vilsack has talked about reducing subsidies to some megafarms, supports better treatment of farm animals and wants healthier food in schools.

However, Obama’s choice is not appealing to all. He received some criticism because Vilsack supports alternative fuels like corn-based ethanol and biotechnology, which are disliked by people who want to shift government support from large-scale agricultural interests to smaller farms.

Obama says that Vilsack’s experience as governor of a rural state makes him well qualified.

“As fiercely protective of family farmers and the farm economy as he has been, he’s also been forward looking on rural development and renewable energy,” said Obama.

What do you think of Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture choice? Please comment below.