Topeka — A $5 million payment from the federal government to a western Kansas ethanol plant is an example of President Barack Obama’s commitment to energy and rural development, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday.
“That is just one of the great strategies that we are engaged in,” Vilsack said in a telephone interview with the Lawrence Journal-World.
The funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will go toward construction of a biogas anaerobic digester at Western Plains Energy in Oakley. Animal waste from a feedlot will be used to produce the heat needed to process ethanol. It is expected to create 15 permanent jobs and nearly 100 construction jobs.
Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, said the project is part of Obama’s “all-of-the-above” approach to developing energy.
For the first time in 13 years, imported oil accounts for less than half of the oil consumed in the United States, Vilsack said.
He said that is because the U.S. is producing more energy, using more alternative fuels and increasing efficiency through such strategies as doubling vehicle fuel economy standards over the decade.
Vilsack said he understands that people are frustrated with high gasoline prices, but he blamed that on the increasing energy demands of China and India, and political tensions in the Middle East.
“That’s why it is important to focus on alternatives,” he said.
He said the Obama administration does not often get credit for expanding development of domestic energy sources. Part of the reason for that, he said, was the political criticism that fell on the administration when it delayed the controversial 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline that runs from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Republicans blasted Obama for the delay, saying it was costing the United States jobs. But Obama had said lawmakers failed to give his administration enough time to review health and safety concerns with the project. Obama has since directed federal agencies to fast-track a 485-mile segment of the line from Cushing, Okla., to refineries on the Gulf Coast.