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Vilsack Voices Support for Biofuels, Role in Climate Change During Ag Committee Hearing

Sec. Tom Vilsack during his Senate Ag Committee confirmation hearing Feb. 2, 2021.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is now one step closer to returning to his position as head of the USDA.

On Tuesday, the committee held a two-hour long hearing with Vilsack, grilling him on topics from climate change to conservation and algal blooms to food security.

One topic that received a lot of interest was the future of biofuels, particularly after the Trump administration granted 88 small refinery waivers. Vilsack said whoever leads USDA should work closely with their counterpart at EPA.

“The waiver system was designed for small refineries that were having trouble—it was not designed for large-scale refineries that are owned by Exxon and Chevron to receive a waiver,” he said. “I would hope and will certainly strongly urge EPA to go back to a day when those waivers are very, very, very infrequently granted.”

Vilsack also said he believes there’s ways to existing USDA resources and work with Congress to get additional resources to make higher blends available in more places.

“Why? Because at the end of the day, consumers benefit,” he said. “They have less expensive fuel, they have a cleaner burning fuel, they have a fuel that’s better for the environment. As we look at the future, I think biofuels continue to play a role in reducing emissions and providing job opportunities in all parts of the country.”

If he is confirmed, Vilsack said he will help leverage the farm economy and biofuels as part of the Biden administration’s climate agenda.

“I think we can make the case, should make the case, and will make the case that there is a role to play for biofuels in climate, in reduction of emissions,” said Vilsack. “There’s a role for the biofuel industry to play in terms of fleet maintenance. We have to have a fuel system that supplies those cars, and we might as well have a biofuel system that supplies cars because it’s about jobs, income stability for farmers, and the consumer.”

Vilsack’s nomination has advanced to the full Senate. A date has not yet been set.

Vilsack’s full hearing can be found here.