The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is to aggressively accelerate the investment in and production of biofuels as directed by the Obama Administration. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack also announced that he will help lead an unprecedented interagency effort to increase America's energy independence and spur rural economic development.

"President Obama's announcement today demonstrates his deep commitment to establishing a permanent biofuels industry in America," says Vilsack. "Expanding our biofuels infrastructure provides a unique opportunity to spur rural economic development while reducing our dependence on foreign oil – one of the great challenges of the 21st century."

Increasing renewable fuels will reduce dependence on foreign oil by more than 297 million barrels a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 160 million tons a year when fully phased in by 2022, according to USDA. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson also announced that EPA would establish four categories of renewable fuels, some of which would be produced from new sources. EPA is soliciting peer-reviewed scientific feedback to ensure that the best science available is utilized before implementing.

Obama directed Secretary Vilsack to expedite and increase production of and investment in biofuel development efforts by:

1) Refinancing existing investments in renewable fuels to preserve jobs in ethanol and biodiesel plants, renewable electricity generation plants and other supporting industries.

2) Making renewable energy financing opportunities from the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 available within 30 days.

These financing opportunities include:

• Loan guarantees for the development, construction, and retrofitting of commercial-scale biorefineries and grants to help pay for the development and construction costs of demonstration-scale biorefineries.

• Expedited funding to encourage biorefineries to replace the use of fossil fuels in plant operations by installing new biomass energy systems or producing new energy from renewable biomass.

• Expedited funding to biofuels producers to encourage production of next-generation biofuels from biomass and other non-corn feedstocks.

• Expansion of the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program, which has been renamed the Rural Energy for America Program, to include hydroelectric source technologies, energy audits, and higher loan guarantee limits.

• Guidance and support for collection, harvest, storage, and transportation assistance for eligible materials for use in biomass conversion facilities.

The Biofuels Interagency Working Group will develop the nation's first comprehensive biofuels market development program. The increased collaboration between federal agencies will accelerate the production of and access to sustainable homegrown energy options by coordinating policies that impact the supply, secure transport, and distribution of biofuels, as well as identifying new policy options to improve the environmental sustainability of biofuels feedstock production.

That group will also work to develop policies to increase flexible fuel vehicle production and assist in retail marketing efforts, taking into consideration land use, habitat conservation, crop management practices, water efficiency and water quality, and lifecycle assessments of greenhouse gas emissions.