Last Thursday, the White House hosted a “Champions of Change” event, inviting 12 from more than 500 program alumni to meet with President Obama and share the stories of their work. I was honored to be one of those chosen to attend and was part of a group representing a vast cross-section of activities and issues, from immigration to empowerment of women, from a mentor helping start-up entrepreneurs to a veteran working within his community to create jobs.
I was chosen to represent the renewable energy sector. As many who subscribe to this blog will attest, the incredible work and time commitments of the National Steering Committee and its endorsing partners continues to bear fruit. The 25x’25 Vision established in 2004 is now a critical component of our nation’s energy future.
When it was my turn to share, I told the president: Biomass and biofuels are a “big deal.” I walked him through the math of our existing resources and put it into a context we could all appreciate: If we simply converted 17 percent of the known, annual agricultural and forest waste into biofuels, we would create a supply of domestic fuel three times the amount that would flow down the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. This is a domestic resource that can create thousands of new jobs, keeping the dollars our nation spends on energy within our own economy (and not to foreign oil producers) and creating a vibrant tax base across the entire country.
I further shared that supporting the federal Renewable Fuels Standard – the biofuels industry’s market driver – is the key to guaranteeing the flow of private capital into the marketplace.
I was able to conclude my remarks with the health nexus of our opportunity: displacing BTX (aromatics) in the current fuel supply with biofuels is an idea whose time has come. It is widely documented that aromatics are responsible for health costs exceeding $200 billion annually. By supporting a strong, domestic biofuels industry we not only set the stage for a rural renaissance across the agricultural and forestry sectors, but we also provide a practical roadmap to reducing the associated human costs of our current paradigm.
It was indeed an honor to spend this hour with President Obama along with the 11 other Champions of Change. He was kind to say that we are “ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things.”
But my seat wasn’t represented by a single ordinary citizen. It was representing each and every one of you: the National Steering Committee, the great people who comprise our sub-committees, the thousands of you who endorse and support our vision and work, and our staff.
It is the leadership of each and every renewable energy advocate that was present in that meeting. And it is the continuing commitment by all of you that will turn this much-needed vision into a reality.
Michael Bowman is a member of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the 25x’25 National Steering Committee. Bowman, a founding member of the Alliance since 2004, is a fifth-generation Wray, Colo., farmer, who produces wheat, corn and alfalfa producer. Bowman was a key leader in the passage of Colorado’s “Amendment 37,” the nation’s first citizen-initiated Renewable Portfolio Standard. He co-chaired Governor Bill Ritter’s Energy Transition Team in 2006, is a founding board member of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, and works domestically and internationally with the Savory Institute on grasslands improvement.