AU upbeat on federal response to renewable energy research

Published: Jan 16, 2007 1:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Amy Weaver, aweaver@oanow.com, 334-737-2534

Source: Opelika-Auburn News and Power Engineering International

It is too early to tell if Auburn University's efforts to promote its expertise about renewable energy in Washington, D.C. are paying off, but at least discussions have been responsive and productive.

"There is continuing interest in Washington with what we are doing here at Auburn University," said Brian Keeter, Auburn's director of public affairs.

The Auburn alum started in the new role last fall, with the express purpose of being a liaison between Auburn and Washington. Keeter had been working for the U.S. Department of Transportation as the Federal Highway Administration's associate administrator for public affairs prior to his return to Auburn.

His latest trip to the nation's capital was this past week. The objective was to provide written testimony at a hearing of the U.S. Senate's Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on alternative energy. As the country considers its options to reduce its dependency on foreign oil, Keeter and energy experts at AU say it is vital to use a variety of sources including wind and solar power as well as natural resources and biomass.

Although Auburn's testimony was submitted to the committee in writing rather than orally, Keeter said the committee's ranking minority member, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, mentioned AU and its research in his opening remarks.

Keeter said he will return to Washington later this month, this time to brief the Senate ag committee and energy committee on the biomass research at AU. He also hopes to brief the U.S. Department of Energy's assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"We are getting a lot of attention for this and it's all really good," he said.

Auburn hopes their efforts pay off, with inclusion in the Farm Bill this year. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 is devoted to energy independence and economic development. Inclusion could mean a program request for Auburn, not an earmark or funding request.

"It could be a significant development for Auburn," Keeter said.