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Last Word: Energy Policy That Invests in Homegrown Fuels
by Congressman Earl Pomeroy

On April 20, an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and set off what may turn out to be the worst oil spill in history. Even with the frantic efforts underway to stop the gusher, which continues to spew oil a mile beneath the surface, no end is in sight to this tragedy.

This incident has probably become our country’s largest and most tragic environmental catastrophe. But it also poses a challenge to our efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

The Gulf oil spill has renewed a focus on safety in the domestic oil industry. Some of this scrutiny is merited, and some of it is politically motivated. I am particularly concerned that this tragedy will be exploited by those who wish to restrain all oil exploration, including exploration in completely unrelated oil plays such as the Bakken Shale in my home state of North Dakota. We cannot allow that to happen.

But it is clear that these safety reviews will slow our offshore oil development in the short term. That makes it critically important that we not let anything stand in the way of our homegrown energy sectors – especially our ethanol industry.

That’s why I believe it is critical – now more than ever – that we provide strong support to development of our homegrown fuels.

In our ethanol industry, we may face a looming crisis if we do not act soon. Our ethanol industry has grown and prospered with the support of the federal government through the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. But that tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year.

At stake are 112,000 jobs in the ethanol industry that would be at risk if we do not extend this tax credit. As many as 2 in every 5 ethanol plants in the United States could be shuttered. At a time when our national economy is still recovering, we cannot risk that sort of job loss.

That’s why I have teamed up with Congressman John Shimkus to introduce bipartisan legislation to extend the tax credit for five years. It will avert the looming crisis by ensuring the tax credit stays in place. And by extending the credit for five years, it provides the long-term stability that is needed to spur investment in new ethanol plants and new energy jobs.

The next step is just as important. We’ve successfully expanded our capability to produce ethanol. But I hear too often from my constituents that they have difficulty getting access to an E85 pump. In my entire state of North Dakota – more than 70,000 square miles – there are only about 30 pumps that distribute E85. It does our country no good to produce ethanol if we don’t have customers with the access and ability to use it.

We must solve this “chicken and egg” problem if we want to see our ethanol industry truly take off.

That’s why I believe we need to find ways to expand the market for ethanol even as we continue the push for more ethanol production. We can do this by creating incentives for automakers to produce more flexible-fuel vehicles. Those flexible-fuel vehicle owners will need a place to fill up, so we also must find ways to encourage our gas station owners to install not just E85 pumps, but also “blender pumps” that allow drivers to customize a fuel blend to suit their needs.

It’s a complex, difficult issue, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in working with our ethanol industry, it’s that we can make a lot of headway by working together. It wasn’t so long ago when fueling your car with ethanol seemed like a radical new idea that many people thought would never get off the ground. Today, our ethanol industry is an important player in the homegrown energy industry and supports jobs all across rural America.

Let’s keep proving the doubters wrong. We need an aggressive energy policy that invests in home-grown fuels. With your help, that’s what I’ll keep pushing for.

© American Coalition for Ethanol, all rights reserved.
The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industry�s hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanol�s carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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