I'm expecting my next heat bill to be a doozey. There's no way around it when you've had the arctic cold temperatures we've seen pummel the Midwest this winter.

I'm encouraged, though, that energy continues to be an essential issue for President Obama's new administration. The president has announced a goal of doubling renewable energy production in the next three years and accelerating an overhaul of the nation's power transmission system.

In fact, in the stimulus package working its way through Congress at press time, they're recommending $54 billion to encourage energy production from renewable sources. Most of that will be targeted toward what looks to be wind and solar applications. There's also funding there to weatherize modest-income homes. Obama has said he plans to weatherize 1 million homes a year. Coming from Minnesota, I think that's a wonderful idea.

Keeping focused on energy can mean only good things for agriculture. That seems especially true with the confirmation of Tom Vilsack as the new secretary of agriculture. Vilsack has long been a supporter of renewable energy and says he plans to promote renewable energy, including biofuels.

In a recent press conference, Vilsack said: “Ethanol producers are under a particular strain. We need to make sure that the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive the recent downturn…at the same time promoting policies that will speed up the development of second- and third-generation feedstocks for those biofuels that have the potential to significantly improve America's energy security and independence.

“We need to create additional demand for advanced biofuels and renewable energy,” Vilsack says, “and work with farmers to determine how best they could change their operations to embrace renewable energy…and encourage them to produce biomass crops.”

Being pro-renewable is being pro-ag, and being pro-ag should mean good things from this administration for America's farmers. This is a good time to be in agriculture.


Here's a fascinating energy factoid. Unplug your cell phone charger when you're not charging the phone and save yourself $13/year, says Lowell Catlett, futurist from New Mexico State University. Now consider that half the world's population has a cell phone.