In a move that will make all the difference to the bioethanol and biodiesel industries, President George W Bush has proclaimed October Energy Awareness Month.
I thought I should tell you as soon as I became aware of it myself. El Presedente was talking at the Advancing Renewable Energy Conference in St Louis, Missouri last week. I could find the fact that I was in New York all last week, and I missed the event slightly embarrassing.
But in my defence, I think it only fair to say that the biggest news out of Missouri in New York last week was the St Louis Cardinals losing the first of their games against the Mets in the World Series Playoffs.
That grown men hitting a ball with a stick, is seen as more important than the fact that no-one will be able to afford to drive to the ball game in 10 or 20 years time is probably more of an indication of the short-term needs that fuel a news editor’s life (and knowing what sells papers) than what is important for the planet.
Dubbya seemed to take a longer term view: Quoting extensively from a White House press release which features a video and transcript of the speech, and one lively interjection.
Energy is — look, let me just put it bluntly: We’re too dependent on oil. We are a — (applause.) And see, low gasoline prices may mask that concern. So, first, I want to tell you that I welcome the low gasoline prices, however it’s not going to dim my enthusiasm for making sure we diversify away from oil.
We need to diversify away from oil for economic reasons. We live in a global world. When the demand for oil goes up in China or in India, it causes the price of crude oil to rise and, since we import about 60 percent of the crude oil we use, it causes our price to go up, as well, which means the economy becomes less competitive.
It is good that he reminds people who live a long way from the sea and are not always particularly international in their out look that there is a world beyond their borders that affectct their lives.
He moves on to bioethanol
Now, there’s another technology that will enable us to help change our driving habits, and that’s ethanol. See, I like the idea of promoting a fuel that relies upon our farmers. I happen to believe a good farm economy is important to a good national economy, and I also know it makes sense to have our — (applause.) Sounds like we might have some farmers here. (Laughter.)
But I also know it makes sense to have our farmers growing the feedstock for new energy. The way I like to tell our citizens is Johanns is going to come in someday and say, “Mr. President, corn is up, which means we’re less dependent on oil.” And that’s good news for the country and good news for our economy.
People are using ethanol. For those of you who are in the ethanol business, you’re on the leading edge of change. It’s coming, and government can help. That’s why we enhanced and extended the 10-cent-per-gallon tax credit. We did that to stimulate production. We’ve extended a 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit for ethanol blenders. We provided a 30-percent tax credit for the installation of alternative fuel stations, up to $30,000 a year.
In other words, I believe and Congress agrees that the proper use of tax credits will help stimulate a new industry that will help our economy and help us when it comes to national security. You know, we’re up to now 5 billion gallons of ethanol sold this year. That’s up from 1.6 billion gallons in 2000. Ethanol — there are now 100 ethanol refineries which are operating. There — it’s anticipated there are going to be 40 more next year. In other words, we’re just at the beginning stages of a new industry that is evolving. It’s one of the reasons I’m excited to be here. For those of you on the cutting edge, I want to thank you, and just let you know we want you to succeed. It’s in our interests that you do succeed.
Today there are 900 stations selling E85. For those of you who don’t know what that means, that’s 85 percent ethanol. Look, a lot of Americans wonder whether or not this is feasible, what I’m talking about. A lot of folks aren’t exposed to ethanol yet. In the Midwest you are, you’ve got a lot of corn. And it makes a lot of sense to have these plants where the feedstocks are. But ethanol is coming, and it doesn’t require much money to convert a regular gasoline-driven car to a flex-fuel automobile. See, the technology is available. It takes about $100-something to change a gasoline-only automobile to one that can use E85. And it works.
He also pushed the buttons of people promoting cellulosic ethanol…
And in my judgment, the thing that’s preventing ethanol from becoming more widespread across the country is the lack of other types of feedstocks that are required to make ethanol — sugar works, corn works, and it seems like it makes sense to spend money, your money, on researching cellulosic ethanol, so that we could use wood chips, or switch grass, or other natural materials. (Applause.)
And he promised lots of good stuff for researchers
The Department of Energy announced $250 million in funding to establish and operate two new bioenergy research center, all aimed at accelerating basic research into cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels. I suspect we’ve got some soybean growers here. I know you’ve got some in Missouri. (Applause.) I have been to a biodiesel plant in Virginia. And it doesn’t take much capital investment to refine biodiesel from soy, soybeans; it just doesn’t. Biodiesel is coming. It makes a lot of sense for us to continue to invest in biodiesel technologies to make the production process even more efficient. I have seen biodiesel poured into a new truck, and watched that truck crank right up, and realize it emitted no emissions. I know, because I put a handkerchief over the stack. (Laughter.)