Senator Amy Klobuchar stopped at the Granite Falls Energy office on Monday for a conversation about renewable energy. and the opportunity it is offering the rural areas and communities of Minnesota.
The lively discussion about renewable fuels and energy independence for the United States left everyone in the room wondering why we aren’t doing more to make renewable fuels happen. The idea of the United States providing all of its own energy supply seems more achievable these days than it has in many years.
Ethanol and other bio-fuels are significant factors in the energy independence equation. A change in policy and a stroke of the proverbial pen by our government would help to make bio-fuels an even bigger player in our energy needs.
The folks at GFE and Fagen, Inc. are true advocates for the expansion of the use of renewable fuels and have demonstrated a good process in manufacturing ethanol. They use significantly less water to produce a gallon of ethanol than the oil companies are using to produce a gallon of gasoline. Yet ethanol producers get blamed for using food to make fuel and for running up the amount of corn acreage in the midwest.
The Senator is a true advocate of renewable fuels. She talked about working with several conservative senators from the midwest to craft legislation that seeks to increase the percentage of ethanol in blended fuel. She also talked about their efforts to aim the farm bill more toward the opportunity that locally grown corn and (eventually) locally grown cellulosic plant stock will be used to locally produce even more renewable fuel. That can be a win-win for rural areas if we can convince the rest of our politicians that big oil companies aren’t the only players in our quest for energy independence.
* * * * * *
After she took a tour of the GFE plant we joined Sen. Klobuchar and her staff for lunch at Tillie’s Restaurant at noon on Monday. Her two-day spin through Southwestern Minnesota focused mostly on economic development and renewable energy projects that besides ethanol and other bio-fuels, included wind power and solar power development.
Our visit over lunch was wide-ranging and covered the various projects that federal funding has brought or will be bringing to the community.
Dan Richter also joined us for lunch and talked about the success that MVTV Wireless has had. They were successful in competeing for a federal stimulus grant to grow their wireless broadband service across more than two dozen counties in our part of the state and it has gone well.
Page 2 of 2 - She also was impressed by how Granite Falls has found ways to match federal money to other sources of funding, particularly from the state, for several recent and upcoming projects.
I mentioned the soon to be open water treatment plant, the various flood related projects, the upcoming work on the foot bridge and the big wastewater lift station in east Granite and our multi-year effort to secure federal funding for our airport.
We also covered some ground concerning rural hospitals and the various challenges of providing health care in a rural area. Washington, D.C. can hold great sway over the success of a small town hospital by tweaking the rules and regulations that govern hospital payments and reimbursement guidelines.
We even spent some time talking about future improvements to Highway 212 near Cologne. A few years ago, she secured some funding for planning future right-of-way acquisition and for some short term safety improvements. I told her that MnDOT is finally getting around to using that money after nearly losing it.
The senator has a good grasp on issues and picks up quickly on people’s concerns.
She hit the nail on the head when she said that it looked like we had been busy. I told her the same.
It was a fast and fun 45 minute lunch.