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Benefits of the new energy economy to 5th District are immense

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By Congressman Tom Perriello

Last week, I embarked on a whirlwind “New Energy for the 5th” Tour, surveying the incredible opportunities to transform Southern and Central Virginia into the region leading America into the new energy economy. In every corner of the district, we have entrepreneurs, workers, farmers, and planners with energy projects that can produce good jobs and strong economic development, while helping to wean our nation from foreign oil. I am confident that together, with the entrepreneurial and patriotic spirit of our communities, we will not just survive these tough times but also begin to thrive again.

Here is a summary of the week’s tour stops:

1. Weatherization and Energy Efficiency Roundtable (Danville): Danville, Pittsylvania, Martinsville, and Henry County will receive $1.1 million in federal stimulus funds for weatherization of low-income homes, with the possibility of $2.2 million over two years. This program can lower energy costs for families, improve housing stock, and train workers for next-generation jobs that cannot be outsourced.

2. Landfill Gas-to-Energy project (South Boston): This project converts noxious methane gas currently being belched out of landfills and turns it into energy that protects our country and returns profits to the taxpayer. Similar projects are being considered in Martinsville, Mecklenburg, and other areas.

3. Poultry Litter Digestor (Cumberland): This project takes poultry waste and converts it into energy and low-phosphorous lightweight fertilizer.

4. “Locally Grown” Food Roundtable (Charlottesville): Locally grown food can increase profit margins for local farmers, reduce our carbon footprint, and protect open spaces. As our country begins to address skyrocketing cases of obesity and diabetes, local foods could support diets with higher nutritional value.

5. Biodiesel closed-loop system (Henry County): We visited Red Birch Energy – the first closed-loop fuel provider in the country that grows, makes, and distributes home-grown fuel. Years from now, people across this country may be looking at how this new system began right here in Southside.

6. Rural Broadband Roundtable (Rocky Mount): We convened county planners from across the district to share ideas about how to increase broadband access in rural communities. This access is increasingly important for educating our kids, recruiting business, and a critical prerequisite for deploying smart grid technology.

7. Updating Hydro-electric turbine dam (Bedford): Upgrading this existing hydro-electric turbine dam to include a low-flow turbine would make more use of the dam, which powers the City of Bedford. This investment would be returned to taxpayers in the years ahead.

The week culminated with our Energy Summit in Rustburg that brought together 50 leaders in the district and from Virginia Tech who are dedicated to putting our region ahead of the curve on green jobs. Participants shared ideas and helped to forge a vision for making the former manufacturing center of Virginia the future green energy capital of the Commonwealth.

The benefits of the new energy economy to our district are immense. It’s a win-win-win situation. We can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create green jobs, support our farmers, and protect God’s creation. When the recession ends, energy demands are going to increase. If we invest now, the 5th District can be at the forefront of that job boom by creating American-grown energy that can’t be outsourced.

I learned so much during this tour and will bring the best of these ideas to Washington to fight for projects that will advance our district and make us competitive in this new energy economy.

Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; call (202) 225-4711; or visit www.perriello.house.gov