On Wednesday in Paris, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack earned the distinction as the first U.S. Agriculture Secretary to attend a Paris Air Show, the largest gathering of the world aerospace industry. The Secretary spoke at the Alternative Aviation Fuels Showcase to a crowd of about 75 aviation business leaders about how USDA is among the forefront of U.S. federal efforts to support the development of bio-based fuels. USDA has established memoranda of understanding with several government and aviation-related agencies, including the Department of Energy, the Air Transport Association, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Navy, on efforts to research and develop renewable energy and the infrastructure to support it.
The Secretary also highlighted USDA’s commitment to the development of alternative fuels to improve economic opportunities across rural America, decrease dependence on foreign oil, and increase environmental benefits of flying. The Secretary said that for aviation biofuels to really take off, the government needs to support the private sector in the form of loan guarantees and research and development (R&D) grants to mitigate risk. Across the United States, USDA supports five research stations committed to the development of next generation advanced biofuels, Other renewable energy programs from USDA help to increase domestic energy security, establish regional supply chains, and promote rural development and jobs in the United States.
In response to a question about budget reduction talks in Washington in relation to support for renewable fuels, the Secretary said the U.S. government must be able to do more with less, but that maintaining resources to help America “grow our way” out of a deficit is equally important.