Photo of Joe Biden

Remarks at a POET, LLC, Bioprocessing Facility in Menlo, Iowa

April 12, 2022

Thank you very, very much. Now, as I was campaigning here in Iowa and made that commitment—I don't think anybody heard, but we're back. We're back.

And I—my name is Joe Biden. I work for Congresswoman Axne. [Laughter] There she is. I learned a long time ago, when she says, "I have a"—I just say yes. [Laughter] I say yes right off the bat.

And I tell you what: She is one hell of a champion for you. I mean it. I mean it. You ask anyone. If you ever come to Washington, walk into the Congress, say, "You know anybody from Iowa?" And the first thing they'll say, they'll mention her name.

Anyway, Cindy, thank you. Thank you for your friendship.

Shooting in New York City

To start, I'd like to say a few words about the mass shooting in New York City's subway this morning you've all read and heard about. Jill and I—my wife Jill and I are praying for those that are injured and all those touched by that trauma. And we're grateful for all the first responders who jumped into action, including civilians—civilians who didn't hesitate to help their fellow passengers and tried to shield them.

My team has been in touch with Mayor Adams and New York's police commissioner. And the Department of Justice and the FBI are working closely with the NYPD on the ground. We're going to continue to stay in close contact with New York authorities and—as we learn more about this situation over the coming hours and days.

And something could have broken between now and the last hour. I haven't heard the news. I haven't spoken to anybody, but my staff. But we're not letting up on it until we find out and we find the perpetrator.

Energy Costs/Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources/Rural Economic Development

Now, to the reason I'm here today: I want to thank you, Rachel. And thank you, Congresswoman Axne. When you hear about progress we're making in Iowa on everything from biofuels to bridges, you can thank Cindy. That's what you—[applause]—no, I'm not joking. I am not joking. There is no fence at the White House high enough to keep her out. None. [Laughter]

All kidding aside, Cindy, you're doing one heck of a job. Thank you so much.

I also want to say a special hello to someone who really wanted to be here today. And you think I'm kidding. He started—he's the guy that brought me to the first biofuel plant in Iowa years ago: your former Governor and my Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. Unfortunately, he couldn't be here today. He went to a press event in Washington, and like two-thirds of the people who went, I think, they got COVID. He's doing fine. I spoke to him. But he couldn't be here.

But I'm here today to talk about the work we're doing to lower costs for American families and put rural America at the center of our efforts to build a future that's made in America. And that's not hyperbole, it's about being made in America.

A lot of that has to do with this industry. I just had a chance to see the work you do here—and turn more than 40 million bushels of local corn into 130 million gallons of ethanol a year. That's a lot of gallons.

We want to see facilities like this all over the Midwest, and here's why: First, it supports farm—it supports farmers and the farm economy. You know, everybody thinks Delaware is a big industrial State, a banking State—and DuPont. We have a $4 billion industry—it's called agriculture—in Delaware. And it's mostly—we have more chickens in Delaware—broilers—chickens than you have in the entire Midwest, I think.

But all kidding aside, it is a big industry in Delaware. And my State, everybody thinks is a industrial State. It's a very rural State. The largest city outside of the main city of Wilmington, Delaware, is a couple hundred—almost 150,000 people—is 20,000 people. It's a rural State. And so we understand about getting rural communities engaged and being able to make a—to be able to make it generally.

And all that corn in the silos is from farmers within 60 miles of here. Knowing you have a buyer gives farmers something they don't often have: peace of mind, certitude about where that product can be sold and you get a fair price for it.

Second, it creates good-paying jobs. It's estimated there are over 400,000 jobs directly and indirectly supported by this industry nationwide. There's a lot of people. That's a lot. And a lot of paychecks, and good, decent paychecks.

Third, it reduces our reliance on foreign oil. By adding this fuel to our gasoline—[applause]—10 percent or 15 percent, even more, it stretches the supply.

And fourth, it gives you a choice at the pump. When you have a choice, you have competition; when you have competition, you have better prices.

And in addition to all of that, you get less harm to the environment, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and you get even byproducts like grain here, which does—goes into animal feed and which helps cattle producers and lowers their costs.

This is an industry with a tremendous future. I've set a goal of zero-carbon for aviation sector, for example, by 2050. I've spoken with the leading heads of all major airlines. It's going to require billions of gallons of sustainable aviation fuel. And you simply can't get to net zero by 2050 without biofuels. Aviation isn't a case where you blend in a little bit of biofuel. It's where—it's called "drop in," meaning 100-percent biofuel.

You don't need to take my word for it. Take the word of the CEO of American Airlines, who said, "Sustainable aviation fuel is the cornerstone of our strategy." End of quote. And the CEO of United Airlines, who called the first biofuel-powered flight "a significant milestone for our efforts to decarbonize our industry."

To bring that future within reach, I proposed a sustainable aviation fuel tax [credit]* that—we brought together the governments, the agencies, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, fuel producers, airports—advanced cleaner and more sustainable fuels for American aviation. That's how we're going to get there. And we can.

We're on the cusp of so many significant things that are going to happen in this country, not just in the fuel side, but in the next 10 years. Your children are going to see more change in the next 10 years than we've seen in the last 40 years. That's how rapidly technology is changing.

So this industry has a role to play in a sustainable energy future. But I'm here today because homegrown biofuels have a role to play right now—right now—as we work to get prices under control and reduce the costs for families.

Look, I grew up in a family—not a joke—where if the price of a gallon of gasoline went up, it was a conversation at our kitchen table. It mattered. It mattered with my mom and dad. It made a difference. We felt it.

Putin's invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world. The two-est largest grain producers in the world, China and—excuse me—Ukraine and Russia, are not doing what they usually do, so everything's going up. We saw today's inflation data: Seventy percent of the increase in prices in March came from Putin's price hike in gasoline.

We need to address this challenge with an urgency that it demands. That's why I've called on Congress to move immediately to lower the cost of families' utility bills, prescription drug bills, and more, while lowering the deficit to reduce inflationary pressures. And that's what we've done. We've lowered the deficit by $300 billion so far. And it's expected—[applause]. So, folks, we can do these things without raising a penny in tax on anybody in this hall. Hall—yeah. [Laughter]

[At this point, the President looked around the building.]

In this giant barn. [Laughter]

Look, it's going to make a big difference for families. You know—and it's the most impactful way that Congress can address inflation right now.

But even as we work with Congress, I'm not going to wait to take action to help American families. I'm doing everything within my power, by Executive orders, to bring down the prices and address the Putin price hike. In fact, we've already made progress since March inflation data was collected.

Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank—none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide in—a half a world away. To help deal with this Putin price hike, I've authorized the release of 1 million barrels per day for the next 6 months from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is by far the largest release of our national reserve in history. It's a "wartime bridge" to increase oil supply as we work to—with U.S producers—oil producers to ramp up their production this year.

Coordinated release with partners and allies around the world. I've spent hours and hours with my counterparts around the world, trying to get them in on the deal. And shortly after I made the announcement, over 30 countries agreed to release another 60 million additional barrels onto the market. Over 240 million barrels over the next 6 months is the bridge to be able to make sure we are going to be able to keep prices down.

This is the largest collective reserve release in history. Hundreds of hours of meetings with key allies, keeping them together, is paying off. Putin is—was counting on the division of NATO, the division of the European Union, the division of the world. Well, we spent a lot of time, but they're all following, every single one, including in Asia, South Korea and Japan, Australia—all of them. Nations coming together to help deny Putin the ability to weaponize his energy resources against American families, families in Europe, and around the world.

And by the way, we're also cutting off access to technology for him. Without American technology—look at the number of major American companies, on their own, not of my urging—over 600 of them, from Exxon to McDonald's, have left Russia—left Russia. He has a burning tundra, literally. It's burning. The permafrost is burning. He's got a problem. And he's caused—we're not going to let him cause that problem to spread to the rest of the world.

And that helped stop the runup of oil prices that have begun to bring prices down a little bit as a result of countries acting together to release this reserve.

And America should be seeing the savings. And we're not just learning and leaning on our reserves or our allies and partners to help bring down gas prices and to power the Nation. We're leaning on you, our farmers, our biofuel refiners.

Today I'm announcing that the Environmental—and I don't think it's much of an announcement; it's already broken out pretty much the last 24 hours—but the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to issue an emergency waiver to allow E15 gasoline that uses more ethanol from homegrown crops to be sold across the United States this summer in order to increase fuel supply.

And, folks, I feel like—[applause]—thank you. I feel like I was a minister, and I feel like I'm preaching to the choir here. But here's what it means: E15 is about 10 cents a gallon cheaper than E10, and some gas stations offer an even bigger discount than that. But many of the gas stations that sell it here in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania are required to stop selling it in the summer. But with this waiver, on June 1, you're not going to show up at your local gas station and see a bag over the pump that has the cheapest gas. You're going to be able to keep filling up with E15. And it's going to solve a whole problem.

But it's not going to solve all our problems, but it's going to help some people. And I'm committed to doing whatever I can to help. Even if it's an extra buck or two in the pockets when they fill up, will make a difference in people's lives.

And even though E15 is only available in a few thousand pumps today, we're investing more than $100 million to build biofuel infrastructure of the future, things like blend pump—blender pumps, the gas pumps that can handle higher blends of bioethanol and diesel fuel.

Of course, there's more we need to do to bring down the prices for American families. We're also working to address food prices. Because right now farmers aren't getting a fair deal and—nationwide—and neither are families at the grocery store.

Back in July, I signed an Executive order to promote competition, to help level the playing field for many family farmers and ranchers, because, as many of you here know better than anyone—that four big companies control more than half the market for beef, pork, and poultry, giving ranchers very few choices about who to sell to, to get their product. These big conglomerates drive down prices they pay farmers, and even as they drive up prices at the grocery store.

So we're investing up to $1 billion of the American Rescue funds for new and expanded meat and poultry processing capacity throughout this country. And this is something that I've talked about with Brent Johnson, who is here today. We're going to invest in innovative new products and processors, small businesses, independent businesses—the lifeblood of our economy. It's going to give farmers and ranchers more options to shore up a weak point in our food supply chain and bring down prices for American families.

I've said it before, and I say it again: I'm a capitalist. But without—capitalism without competition isn't capitalism, it's exploitation. Exploitation.

And bringing down the historic economic progress, reducing costs for families also requires investing in infrastructure. My introducer is going to drive home 50 miles. I've got to make sure of the thousands of bridges in this State and around the country that aren't safe—I hope you're not going over some of them.

And that starts with roads and bridges. It really does. As Cindy has pointed out, Iowa has more bridges than any other State in the Nation that are classified as "structurally deficient"; 4,500 are in "poor condition."

And here's the reason why Cindy's work on the infrastructure law was so important: About two-thirds of the bridges in need of repair in this country are considered "off system" because they are not directly on the Interstate Highway System.

And back in January, I was supposed to speak in Pittsburgh, which I did, at a steel mill. But on the way there, a bridge collapsed in the city. That's what most people don't realize: It's called the "City of Bridges." There's more bridges in Pittsburgh than any other city in America. And it was—and that morning I got there, it collapsed. We went straight to the site. It—the bridge had been rated in "poor condition" for the last 10 years.

Thank God nobody died. It was about, I'm guessing, maybe 300 yards across a little bit of a valley and a shallow creek. And the steepest part, from the bridge to this creek, was probably about 8 or 10 stories. And it was a snow day. And that bridge, if it weren't a snow day, would have had, at the moment it went down, school buses with hundreds of kids going across that bridge.

This stuff matters. I mean, it really matters.

I was telling Cindy, back in—I was in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, and they needed a bridge—or the bridge was only as far as from the length of not—half the length of this room. And guess what? Fire station was on one side, and this town was on the other, but because they couldn't take the firetrucks across that bridge because they were afraid it would collapse, they had to go—if I'm not mistaken, it was either 10 or 11 miles, 5½ miles up and 5½ miles back—to get there.

And they had a fire, and they couldn't get there in time. Just across—they could see it. It was literally maybe 500 yards away, and they couldn't do anything about it.

These bridges are essential for small towns—in my State and your towns—and rural areas, for farmers to get their products to market, for small businesses to be able to serve their customers.

These are bridges that, when they're closed, shifts [shuts]* off delivery and routes to schools and routes home. It takes a lot longer.

They create longer delays for first responders when every second counts. And you all—Cindy can cite it for you—the statistics are: You get in an accident in a rural area, you have about a 40-percent greater chance of being—dying than you do if you're—it happens in the city. It just simply takes longer to get to the hospital, longer to get to the doc.

So, in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we included $27.5 billion for smaller bridges, including dedicated funding for off-system bridges.

And, folks, look, we used to be rated the number-one infrastructure—had the number-one infrastructure in the world. We're now number eight—the United States of America. The United States of America.

And, folks, here in Iowa, our bipartisan infrastructure law is delivering $93 million for those bridges just this year. Ninety-three million. And at least $14 million for off-system bridges this year.

Look, this investment is going to help connect entire towns and regions to new opportunities. We've gone from waiting for "Infrastructure Week," and now you've got infrastructure—"Infrastructure Decade." Ten years. Ten years. And we owe it to you, Cindy.

Look, it's going to help workers get jobs—good-paying jobs—products get to market, reduce costs for families. With this investment, we're sending the message to America's small communities and the people who call your—call you home—this home: You matter. You matter. We see you. Not a joke. And we're building back with you. We're making sure you're not left out or left behind.

We're also investing in universal, affordable high-speed internet. I was surprised at this number, I have to tell you: 16 percent of Iowa households don't have an internet subscription. In some places, there's no high-speed internet infrastructure at all—zero—in this State. And the law will make high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in Iowa. And think of what that will make possible, from telemedicine to precision agriculture, to small businesses that want to be able to sell in bigger markets.

In the 21st century in America, no parent ever should have to pull into McDonald's or a fast-food chain to literally hook up to the internet in their car so their kid could do their homework over—on the line—online. Think about that. The United States of America. We're the guys that came up with all this stuff.

Our infrastructure law invests in clean water and wastewater systems, including a major investment in the Lewis and Clark rural water system, to bring clean, reliable drinking water to more than 350,000 people in South Dakota to Minnesota, to northwest Iowa. It matters. It matters to their health. It matters to their convenience. It matters across the board.

We're investing in ports and waterways, including over $700 million for the Lock and Dam project 25 on the Mississippi. You say, "What does that have to do with me?" It has a lot to do with you all. Because nearly every bushel of soybean and corn that is transported on that river from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin goes through these locks. And they were built in 1930—1930s.

Barges often need to be split into smaller groups to make it through, taking hours and sometimes greater delays. With new, modern locks, we're going to help farmers get their products to market faster, more efficiently, lower costs, and keep American agriculture globally competitive.

Folks, the list goes on. I'm starting to bore myself here. But this is important stuff, I think. I think.

In fact, members of my administration and I will be visiting rural America in over 25 States over the next 3 weeks to talk about how we can do even more to create jobs and opportunity, to make sure that the investments we're making reach rural communities, buy from rural businesses, create jobs here at home, giving your young people the opportunity to make a living and raise a family in the place where they were raised and where they want to stay.

I won't ask the people—I know no woman is over 50 years of age here, but the men are over 50. How many times have you had a son or daughter, niece or nephew, say: "I don't want to move, but I have to. There's no job here. I don't have a chance here"? We're changing that.

Let me close with this: When I was running for office, I heard it a thousand times: "We're going to build an economy around you, the communities who feed and fuel our Nation." Well, we are. We are. We're going to deal in people and places that have been left out and left behind for a long time. We're making progress.

Over the course of my Presidency, our recovery has now created 7.9 million jobs in almost 17 months—14 months. More jobs created over the first 14 months of any President in American history. And by 20—in 2021, our economy created more jobs in rural America than occurred in the last 15 years.

So I'm more optimistic about America today than I've been in my whole life. And I—my doc—I had an aneurysm when I was much younger, and I was put in the hospital; I was a Senator. And he started to explain to me what an aneurysm was. I said, "I don't need to know." He said, "I just—we're going to just take the top of your head off and do something with it." And I said: "No, you do your job, I'll do mine. And I'll be the patient." And after it was all over, he said, "You know what your problem is, Senator?" I was Senator. And I said, "No." He said, "You're a congenital optimist." And I am, because I'm an American. That's why I'm optimistic, because I see a future that's within our grasp—no hyperbole.

We're the only nation on Earth—this is not pure chauvinism; this is the truth—we're the only nation on Earth, if you think about it, that's come out of every major crisis stronger than when we went in. We just didn't build back to where we were, we came out stronger. Stronger. Literally, every major crisis we faced, we turned into an opportunity. And that's exactly what we're going to do today.

But, all of you, I can't thank you enough for your—all the work you put in, all the faith you have in your State, in your community, in your country. And I just want to say God bless you all.

And every time I'd walk out of my Grandpa Finnegan's house up in Scranton—which died when coal died; it's coming back. Every time when I'd come—when you'd walk out the door, and he'd yell, "Joey, keep the faith." And then one of my—either my grandmother or my aunt would yell, "No, Joey, spread it." Let's go spread the faith. Thank you very much. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Appreciate it.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:17 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell of New York City; Rachel Connor, grain merchandiser, POET Bioprocessing-Menlo, who introduced the President; Robert D. Isom, chief executive officer, American Airlines Group, Inc.; J. Scott Kirby, chief executive officer, United Airlines, Inc.; President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; and Brent Johnson, president, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

* White House correction.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at a POET, LLC, Bioprocessing Facility in Menlo, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355431

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