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Clean energy 'promising' -- Obama

Jeff Caldwell 01/25/2012 @ 9:39am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

President Barack Obama didn't say the word "ethanol" Tuesday night during his State of the Union address. But, he did spend a lot of time talking about American energy production and his administration's continued support of home-grown energy, including renewable fuels.

"Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it," Obama said Tuesday night before calling upon Congress to pass clean energy tax credits to stimulate more domestic energy creation and create the jobs such growth would create.

"I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century," Obama said. "That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising."

That stance drew praise from the renewable energy sector. National Corn Growers Association leaders called the President's commitment a positive one for both consumers and their members.

"The National Corn Growers Association is pleased to hear President Obama’s continued commitment to the nation’s energy independence during his State of the Union address. Today, that same feedstock constitutes more than 10% of the nation’s fuel and continues to provide a bountiful supply of corn to our long term customers," according to a statement from NCGA chairman Bart Schott. "The corn ethanol industry has proven that good government policy sends signals to the market place for producers to increase production and efficiencies. As family corn farmers have risen to the challenge to meet our nation’s energy needs, we are hopeful the direction the President outlined tonight offers similar opportunities for others to expand our energy independence.”

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen called upon the President this week to continue the investments already made to biofuels -- both their production and use -- and end federal supports for the oil industry to put renewables on equal footing with petroleum.

"The Department of Agriculture has made wise and fruitful investments in next generation ethanol technologies, farming practices and technologies to supply a growing array of biofuel feedstocks, and ethanol fueling infrastructure that is needed to expand the market opportunity for domestically-sourced ethanol and other biofuels," Dinneen said. "Now is the time to end taxpayer handouts to all oil companies, not just the largest or most profitable, and begin to create the level playing field and free market for which so many anti-ethanol and renewable energy critics claim to desire."

The President's stance on domestic jobs and energy did come under the scrutiny of one ag-related group, though. President of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Dennis Slater said Tuesday it's time for the President and Congress to stop "kicking the can down the road" and instead take action on highway construction funding as well as reconsider the recent decision to stall the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

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