Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. – the new head of the House Agriculture Commission – says he is pushing for a significant boost in cellulosic ethanol research and development in the new farm bill.
"To get where we need to get [with renewable fuels], we have to grow biomass on a large basis…we need to figure out what the best biomass to grow in different areas of the country," said Peterson in an interview after his keynote address at the South Dakota Corn Growers Association annual convention Saturday in Sioux Falls.
In the Midwest, the best ethanol fuel in the fuel will like be native prairie grasses.
Look for a future program, like CRP, to offer you incentives to grow native grass acreage and seed even before cellulosic ethanol is commercialized.
Peterson said the industry has to ramp up and be ready to support cellulosic ethanol production.
Biomass ethanol will be an even bigger boost to rural American than corn ethanol, he predicted. Biomass ethanol plants would be built 20-30 miles because biomass can't be hauled great distances. It would create so many jobs that "we are going to have people moving back," he said.
The renewable fuels industry will likely go through stages, according to Peterson.
Today the focus is on producing ethanol from corn. Next, the growth may come from biomass ethanol production. In the future, today's ethanol plants may be producing hydrogen, he says.
"This is the biggest opportunity in agriculture that I have ever seen," Peterson said. "We could revolutionize rural America if we get this right."