Responding to President Bush's call for governments around the world to accelerate the development of renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer has announced USDA's wide-ranging initiative at the Washington International Energy Conference.

"Renewable energy presents a promising opportunity for the farm economy," said Schafer. "Coupled with a strong commitment from USDA, our goal sets renewable fuels on the pathway as a regular and reliable source in the energy mix," Schafer said.

The pledges announced by Secretary Schafer will:

• Produce or save 682 million kilowatt hours of energy in Fiscal Year 2008 while assisting more than 1,000 rural small businesses, and creating or saving over 2,800 jobs in rural communities.

• Develop new markets, including waste to energy applications, for woody biomass culled from the nation's forests as part of management initiatives to reduce accumulated hazardous fuels, remove diseased or insect-infested material, and restore forestlands hit by catastrophic weather events.

• Foster the development of cultivation of switchgrass, a promising cellulosic ethanol feedstock, and provide engineering assistance in the construction of anaerobic digesters.

• Increase the demand for biobased products with their significant opportunity for using feedstocks to reduce oil consumption.

"From farms and forests, biofuels and biobased energy are at home in an expansive landscape with room for wind, geothermal, and utility-scale solar generation," said Schafer. "In rural America, USDA remains at the center of the national commitment to expand the use of renewable energy and reduce our dependence on imported oil."

The USDA pledges include commitments from three USDA Mission Areas — USDA Rural Development, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service — as well as USDA's Office of Energy Policy and New Uses.

The USDA initiatives are part of a government-wide pledge announced by President Bush at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC 2008). More than 100 nations attended WIREC 2008, adding their own pledges to the worldwide effort.

For additional information about WIREC 2008 and a complete listing of pledges received, please visit www.wirec2008.gov. For a complete listing of USDA's energy related programs and initiatives, please visit the USDA "Energy Matrix" at http://www.usda.gov/rus/index2/0208/EnergyPrograms.htm