USDA, Navy make Commitment to Increase Military Biofuel Use

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack crossed the Potomac River last week to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Navy that will supposedly lead to the greater use of biofuels and alternative energy in the military.

The Navy has plans to cut its fossil fuel use and switch everything from bases to ships and aircraft to alternative energy. The Navy is laying out a series of targets; most of the key goals don’t take effect until 2015 or 2016, when President Barack Obama would be at the end of his second term, if he gets one.

The memorandum of understanding is a promise by the two agencies to work with each other.

The Navy’s goals:

– By 2012, demonstrate a Green Strike Group composed of biofuel-powered nuclear vessels and ships. By 2016, sail the Strike Group as a Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running on biofuel, and aircraft running on biofuel.

– By 2015, cut petroleum use by half in its nontactical commercial fleet of 50,000, by phasing in hybrid, flex-fuel and electric vehicles.

– By 2020, produce at least half of shore-based installations’ energy requirements from alternative sources. Also, 50 percent of all shore installations will be net zero energy consumers.

– By 2020, half of the Navy’s total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and shore installations will come from alternative sources.

Iowa Power Farming Show has exhibitor waiting list
Grain and livestock producers have fought lower prices for most of the last year, but that hasn’t slowed the Iowa Power Farming Show, which will hold its 55th annual exhibition Feb. 2-4 at Wells Fargo Arena, Veterans Memorial Auditorium and Hy-Vee Hall.

The 2009 show attracted a record 18,900 to what is now the nation’s fourth-largest indoor agricultural equipment show.

“We have nearly 50 companies on the waiting list, so this tells me that row-crop ag remains strong,” show director Tom Junge said. “We have never had this large a number on the waiting list.”

A total of 620 companies will use 1,620 booths to display everything from the largest combines, planters and tractors to small precision farming guidance systems.

Farmers also can attend seminars on farm marketing, succession transitioning, yields and precision farming.

Admission is $6 for adults, but farmers can get in for $3 by registering at and taking part in a crop planting intention survey.

Vilsack urged to consider livestock antibiotics limits
Lawmakers who want to curb the use of antibiotics in hogs and other livestock are urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to address the issue. Among those measures: boost monitoring for resistant bacteria and write rules for labels that would allow meat to be promoted as “raised without antibiotics.”

The three lawmakers, led by Rep. Louis Slaughter, D-N.Y., are sponsoring legislation that would sharply restrict the on-farm use of antibiotics, but that bill doesn’t appear to be going anywhere for now. In a Jan. 15 letter to Vilsack, the lawmakers press their concerns that overuse of antibiotics in livestock is leading to a rise in drug-resistant bacteria that are a threat to human health.

“Antibiotics are the miracle drugs of the 20th century, yet overuse leads to development of resistant bacteria. With simple, common sense and inexpensive improvements to animal husbandry practices, it would not be necessary to give animals routine and large volumes of antibiotics.”

In addition to expanded monitoring and antibiotic-free meat labels, the lawmakers also called on Vilsack to increase research on alternatives to antibiotic usage in livestock and to request money from Congress for research on resistant bacteria. The USDA is reviewing the letter and will respond soon, a spokesman said.

Could big pipeline player help ethanol transport?
The news of a joint venture between pipeline operator Kinder Morgan of Houston and the U.S. Development Group probably didn’t crack the ice in the Corn Belt last week, but the long-term ramifications could be significant.

Kinder Morgan is one of the nation’s largest natural gas and petroleum pipeline companies. U.S. Development owns and operates ethanol loading terminals.

The crux of the deal involves Kinder Morgan taking over U.S. Development ethanol rail unloading terminals at Linden, N.J., Baltimore and Dallas.

The joint venture has at least the possibility of smoothing what has been one of ethanol’s biggest logistical difficulties: getting the ethanol from the Midwest, where it is made, to the major gasoline markets on both coasts and in Texas.

At present, all ethanol has to move by rail. Ethanol can’t move in pipelines dedicated to oil and gas, primarily because of ethanol’s water content. So what has turned out to be a competent logistical system has been cobbled together linking the nation’s rail network with unloading terminals in major urban markets.

So far, the system has worked, but if the nation expects to move from the current annual use of ethanol of 11 billion to 12 billion gallons to 20 billion gallons or more in the next decade – especially if E15 is allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency as expected this year and more car buyers purchase E85 vehicles – then an expanded ethanol transport system will be needed.

PHILIP BRASHER & DAN PILLER • • January 24, 2010


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