Texas to lead nation in renewable fuel production

Texas, long the nation’s leader in fossil fuel energy production, stands to assume that same position with renewable energy as the country attempts to replace 25 percent of its energy needs with renewable fuel sources by 2025.

A University of Tennessee Department of Agricultural Economics study released last fall shows that Texas will top all states in renewable fuel production and will reap significant economic benefits in the process. The Texas 25x’25 Alliance cited The University of Tennessee study in a press conference Wednesday at the Texas Farm Bureau headquarters in Waco.

“Renewable energy is our key to energy efficiency,” said Travis Brown, renewable energy specialist with the state Office of Rural Community Affairs and co-chair of the State 25x’25 Alliance. “And Texas will produce more renewable energy than any other state.”

The University of Tennessee analysis shows that Texas will produce an additional 1.27 quads of energy by helping the nation meet the 25 percent goal. A quad equals the amount of electricity and fuel consumed in one year by 4.4 million American homes.

Reaching that milestone also means a $22.8 billion boost to the Texas economy, anticipated to rank fifth in the nation in economic activity from renewable fuel production.

Findings also indicate Texas has the potential to produce 3.76 billion gallons of bio-fuels and 144.5 billion kilowatt hours of renewable electricity, a 2,130 percent increase over 2003.

Farm and forest income is expected to increase by $1.9 billion annually as renewable energy production increases. Economic impacts from changes in crop prices, shifts in acreage, additions of dedicated energy crops and decreases in government payments will result in $8.8 billion in increased annual economic activity in the state.

An additional $14.0 billion in annual economic activity will occur from conversion of feedstocks to energy. Meeting the 25x’25 energy goal would create more than 173,400 new jobs in Texas.

Nationally, renewable energy could inject $700 billion into the economy, add more than 5 million jobs and initiate a $180 billion boost to agriculture, says Reed Smith, co-chair of the National 25x’25 Alliance. Smith said the University of Tennessee study shows the goal is viable and “will boost the economy, improve the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

“We have an ambitious goal,” Brown said. “Texas has always been a leader, primarily with oil and gas, but we are also blessed with tremendous potential for wind, biomass and geo-thermal energy. We are currently the nation’s number one producer of wind energy.”

Smith said challenges to meeting renewable energy goals include bringing on economical cellulosic ethanol production facilities. “President Bush has challenged the industry to get the cost of cellulosic ethanol down to $1.25 per gallon by 2009 and that includes the cost of manufacturing facilities,” Smith said.

He said water use may be less a factor in renewable fuel production than some expect. “We need research but some of the feedstocks will use less water than traditional crops. We envision some dryland production and dedicated energy crops.”

Infrastructure to deliver energy to consumers also offers challenges, he said. “We will be re-inventing energy infrastructure.”

Gary McGehee, state director for the Texas Farm Bureau, said the industry must be aware of the balance for food and energy production. We need to develop safe, renewable fuel sources while we maintain our food supply.”

Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples said renewable energy is “a matter of national security and economic development. It will mean an increase in jobs for rural Texas, so we have an incentive to be fully engaged in this effort.”

In terms of energy production, Nebraska would rank second behind Texas with 1.16 quads of new energy under the 25x’25 scenario. Other states that increase renewable energy by more than 0.5 quads include Kansas, Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Illinois would lead the nation in new economic activity, generating $40.1 billion annually under the 25x’25 scenario.

Contributions from America’s farms, forests and ranches could result in the production of 86 billion gallons of ethanol and 1.2 billion gallons of biodiesel, which has the potential to decrease gasoline consumption by 59 billion gallons in 2025. The production of 15.45 quads of energy from biomass could replace the growing demand for gasoline, natural gas, diesel, and/or coal generated electricity. In addition, nearly 7 quads of energy are generated from solar and wind resources.

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