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Green Jobs and Biofuels

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One of President-elect Obama's key objectives early in his administration is to create 2.5 million jobs through investment in green technologies. Investing in cleaner-burning biofuels are among the clean energy technologies likely to be included in this critical initiative.

This makes eminent sense because America's renewable energy industries, whether solar or wind for the generation of electricity or biofuels for replacing imported oil, are on the cusp of major technological breakthroughs that will transform our energy and environmental future.

President-elect Obama and the new Congress have the opportunity to build upon the existing renewable energy infrastructure. The federal tax incentive to promote the use of ethanol, a tax credit available to oil companies for each gallon of ethanol they blend with gasoline, has helped establish a growing domestic renewable fuels industry. Because of this program, ethanol today represents 8% of our nation's gasoline supply. It has also helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut our trade deficit, made the federal government money, and put more money into the pockets of average Americans. Further, the expansion of the industry has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs making it, along with fuel economy standards, the original green economic stimulus.

Another example of a policy to expand the production and use of greener energy is the Renewable Fuels Standard, which will help reduce greenhouse gas emission while creating an expanded ethanol industry based on cellulosic materials -- switchgrass, wood chips, corn cobs and municipal waste. The emergence of this next generation of renewable biofuel technologies promises even greater economic and environmental benefits than we are realizing today. Continuing these sound public policies should be at the top of President-elect Obama's blueprint for the green economy.

President-elect Obama must also take into account policies that increase the demand for renewable energy. On the transportation fuels front, increasing the current arbitrary 10% limit on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into a gallon of gasoline is essential. With the expanded production of biofuels, buying gasoline blended with 15% or 20% ethanol will provide the necessary market. At the same time, increasing the production of flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) would create even greater demand for renewable alternatives to gasoline and imported oil.

Striving to create more opportunity in the renewable energy sector is about more than just the jobs that directly produce the energy. It is about the network of suppliers and distributors which provides goods and services to these industries. For example, while a 100 million gallon per year ethanol biorefinery will directly employ about 50 people, this facility will help support 1,500 jobs in companies that provide services and supplies as well as new businesses in communities where new facilities are built. This is particularly the case in rural communities that experience economic revival with the construction and operation of a new facility.

President-elect Obama is absolutely right in placing emphasis on investing in renewable energy and fuel technologies for part of his "green jobs" agenda. The green economy is a platform for long term sustainable economic growth as well as a key component of our energy, national security, and environmental strategies.

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