Better World Fund


$150,000 for 2 years

Awarded: July 18, 2013

Clean Energy Economy

For 25x'25's Energy for Economic Growth project.

About the Grantee

  • At the International Paper chip mill operation in Madison, Georgia, 25x'25 leaders learned about biomass energy production and discuss the economic impacts that a viable wood industry has on the rural areas of Georgia.

"By 2025, America's farms, forests, and ranches will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, while continuing to produce safe, abundant and affordable food, feed, and fiber." In 2004, this idea, the vision statement for the 25x'25 climate change initiative, was considered a very aggressive goal. "Renewable energy coming from the land at the time was less than 2 percent.  We said we needed something big to drive fundamental change. People laughed at us," said Ernie Shea, project coordinator for 25x'25.

A spin-off of the Energy Future Coalition, the 25x'25 campaign was launched in 2004 with support from the Better World Fund. This ambitious target came from grassroots agricultural leaders who voluntarily participated in small focus groups that initially explored the farming industry's role in relation to the United Nations Foundation's findings that energy security needed to be addressed in our post 9/11 world.

Broadening the conversation, the group hosted a summit of a diverse cross-section of interest groups, ranging from fruit, vegetable, and livestock farmers to forestry and conservationists that, in Shea's words, "interact but don't always play well together."  The agriculture and forestry communities encompass more than just food and fiber. They also provide viewscapes, air, and jobs, in addition to improving soil quality with biomass use, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependency on oil from the Middle East.  "Agriculture isn't all driven by corporate America.  We provide a full range of services and benefits. It's not just about megacorporations and Monsantos-it's about American citizens providing jobs, social benefits, and more, while feeding and clothing American citizens," Shea said.

The campaign has since grown to a broad alliance of 900 endorsing entities, including Fortune 500 companies and environmentalists.  Shea praises its leadership of progressive thinkers for pushing partners to move beyond their comfort zone. At the 2009 summit, centered on the role of agriculture and forestry in a reduced carbon economy, 25x'25 organizers expanded the conversation to include how they can deliver climate change solutions-a huge leap for the community, which has ducked and denied this issue for the past 30 years.  An expert group devised a list of policy recommendations, which were used to do education outreach and create alliances around the opportunities available to the municipal level across the country. The summit also spawned affiliates in 30 states, who are conducting outreach and forums to discuss potential solutions from the land.

So far, the campaign is over 13 percent closer to its goal, having hit their 10 percent milestone in under five years.  It has also had a positive educational impact on policy development at both the state and national level.

Over the next few years, 25X'25 will continue to solidify the agriculture and and forestry's role in domestic clean energy policy, as well as possibly build alliances with other like-minded people in agriculture and forestry communities outside of the United States, in order to frame a vision for land use with multiple global benefits, such as reducing poverty.  "I'm not a believer in destiny," said Shea. "It's a function of choice, not chance. We can shape our outcome. Industrial pollution has been a big issue, but not for the land resource community. How are we part of the solution?"