Mideast turmoil shows need for US to promote ethanol – trade group

24 February 2011 19:54  [Source: ICIS news]

US trade group says Mideast turmoil shows need for ethanolHOUSTON (ICIS)--The continued unrest in Libya and the Middle East underscores the need for the US to promote ethanol as a domestic alternative to imported oil, executives with ethanol lobbying group Growth Energy said on Thursday.

“You can look at unrest spreading across the Middle East and just imagine what the impact would be,” said retired US general Wesley Clark, also co-chairman of Growth Energy.

“We don’t want to spend the next 30 years fighting in the Middle East to preserve oil when we have domestic resources,” he added.

Clark spoke on a Growth Energy conference call regarding recent Middle East developments and US ethanol policy initiatives.

Clark noted that it cost about $2bn (€1.46bn) per week to keep US forces operating in Afghanistan, with another $1bn in Iraq even as forces are being pulled out.

Thus, he rejected the notion that importing oil would be the cheaper option.

“As this latest oil price hike rolls through our economy, you can only imagine what the impact will be,” Clark said. “We have an alternative.”

As such, Clark and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis called on the US Senate two defeat two recent amendments seeking to block federal authorisation for 15% ethanol fuel blends (E-15).

“[The amendments] are a win for OPEC and another setback for America,” Buis said. “It’s time for America to stand up, not retreat again.”

Buis said the amendments also send a signal to companies developing alternative feedstocks that there is no market space for their products.

“This has kept people on the sidelines from investing in next-generation products,” he said.

While expressing optimism that the amendments would not clear the Senate, Buis was sceptical that the recent surge in oil prices to above $100/bbl would be enough to spur pro-ethanol policy changes.

“This crisis has been going on for years,” Buis said. “It’s going to take crossing the $4/gal or $5/gal [motor gasoline] threshold, like last time, to get the kind of wake-up call that we need.”

“We have real dependency challenges on imported oil,” he added.

($1 = €0.73)

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By: Ben DuBose
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