US Congress gives final OK to huge ethanol boost

18 December 2007 21:28  [Source: ICIS news]

Final US bill on energy is big boost for biofuelsWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US House of Representatives gave final approval on Tuesday to an energy bill that mandates a four-fold increase in US biofuels production and consumption to 36bn gal/year by 2022.


In a 314-100 vote, the House approved HR-6, the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,” and sent it on to the White House.  A White House spokesman said President George Bush will sign the bill into law on Wednesday in a ceremony at the Energy Department.


In addition to the huge increase in the federal biofuels mandate, the bill also increases the standard for automobile fuel efficiency in cars made in the US. By 2020 US-manufactured autos must have an average of 35 miles per gallon (mpg). That new requirement replaces the 32-year-old current standard of 25 mpg.


It is the bill’s biofuels mandate, however, that will have the greatest impact on US agriculture and the energy sector.


The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the trade group representing US biofuels producers, hailed final congressional action on the energy bill, saying the legislation is “historic and will begin to provide America with greater energy security, the tools to help mitigate the impacts of climate change and a roadmap to rethinking how we produce and use energy in this country”.


Association President Bob Dinneen praised Congress for “seizing on the potential that renewable fuels offer to reduce foreign oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions and provide meaningful economic opportunity across this country”.


Despite broad support in Congress, especially among senators and representatives from farm states that have benefited from ethanol-driven increased demand and prices for corn, the energy bill’s biofuels mandate has come under criticism.


Bio-ethanol production has come under increasing criticism for its impact on food prices, and the biofuel’s energy and environmental advantages have been challenged.  The energy bill also came under fire from US chemicals producers and a broad range of other manufacturers because it does not include any provisions to boost domestic US production of oil and natural gas.


Representative John Peterson (Republican-Pennsylvania) said the HR-6 energy bill “certainly will not make America more energy secure”.


“If we are truly serious about moving toward energy security, we must absolutely increase production of oil and gas here at home,” Peterson said.  “We must expand our nuclear capacity, clean coal-to-liquid technology and carbon capture.”


Representative Joe Barton (Republican-Texas), ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, charged that the energy bill has “nothing in it for our domestic oil and gas industry [and] there is very little in it for the nuclear industry”.


“So for all the conventional energy sources that fuel this great nation, this is basically a no-energy bill,” Barton said.


Barton said the energy bill “is a recipe for recession” because it will raise the cost of energy production and general manufacturing.

By: Joe Kamalick
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