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Concerns Arise in Nebraska Over White House Nominee's Take on Renewables

In Nebraska, 500 million bushels of grain a year are needed for ethanol production. (United Soybean Board/Flickr)
In Nebraska, 500 million bushels of grain a year are needed for ethanol production. (United Soybean Board/Flickr)
November 28, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. – Some Nebraska farmers are voicing concerns about a White House nominee's position on renewable energy. A vote is expected Wednesday on President Donald Trump's pick to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Kathleen Hartnett White is a former conservative think-tank director and Texas environmental regulator.

As a corn and soybean farmer and chairman of a renewable-energy advocacy organization, Bart Ruth of Rising City says he's very concerned about White's criticism of climate and environmental science, and her commitment to fossil fuels.

"Renewable energy has become vitally important to rural America, both in the biofuel side and then moving into wind and solar," he says. "We've already seen others within this administration that are not terribly supportive of renewables, and adding one more to the mix would be disastrous for rural America."

White has waffled on her position regarding the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets biofuel blending targets for the nation's fuel supply. Ruth says the measure has helped corn growers like him maintain a viable agricultural industry.

Ruth explains ethanol has provided a steady stream of income for Nebraska farmers, and other renewables are growing as well.

"We've had huge growth in ethanol production over the past couple of decades and is really one of the main drivers of the marketplace for corn producers," he explains. "Wind is really starting to put in a footprint across our state; we've seen tremendous growth over the last few years. And I think solar has huge potential as those costs continue to come down."

He notes that in Nebraska, 500 million bushels of grain a year are needed for ethanol production, and the wind sector is paying up to $5 million annually to lease land from rural landowners, without displacing cash crops.

Ruth contends top policy advisers should understand the economic and environmental realities of farming and ranching and the role of renewables.

"We really need an advocate pushing for moving onto the next generation of energy production which totally encompasses renewables," he adds. "Fossil fuels always will have some bit of a role, but we need to look at these newer, low-cost, climate-friendly solutions to producing our nation's energy supply."

Nebraska ranks second in the country in ethanol produced.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE