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Midwest senators offer bill touting flex-fuel cars
Farm World Editor

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Three Midwestern senators are attempting to encourage use of renewable fuels through new legislation.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) offered the Fuel Security and Consumer Choice Act in Congress last week. This bill would mandate all automobiles marketed in the United States to be flexible-fuel vehicles within 10 years of its adoption.

Flexible-fuel vehicles are cars with the ability to run on either regular gasoline or E85 - a blend of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent corn-based ethanol. Lugar believes this bill would ensure access to an alternative to foreign petroleum in the future as the country’s renewable fuels industry continues to expand.

“Flexible Fuel Vehicles play an important role in increasing our use of renewable fuels and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil,” Lugar said. “America’s insatiable appetite for oil places our nation in a precarious situation of reliability on regions that have become increasingly hostile to us.

“This bill would complement the exciting advances in the energy bill that Congress passed earlier this year that more than doubled the production and use of domestic renewable fuels. Passage of this legislation would send an important signal to the market that renewable fuels, such as those produced in Indiana, will be fully embraced by our nation.”

The bill would require 10 percent of vehicles sold in the United States to have a flexible-fuel capability within 18 months of passage. The requirement would increase by 10 percent for each year resulting in all new vehicles being flexible fuel within 10 years.

Harkin believes this will benefit motorists’ pocketbooks, too, because E85 is generally less expensive than regular gasoline.

“For too long, our country has been dependent on foreign oil, and now America’s drivers are paying the price at the pump,” Harkin said. “This legislation will free our drivers from relying solely on oil based gas and allow them the choice of using ethanol blends that could be saving families hundreds of dollars if cars were E85 compatible now.”

Currently, Harkin added, most drivers cannot use fuel blends with high ethanol content in their vehicles since only 2 percent of American cars are flex-fuel capable.

“By expanding driver access to ethanol, we can decrease our reliance on foreign oil while stimulating demand for home grown ethanol,” he said. “That’s a great deal for America’s drivers, the rural economy and the environment.”

U.S. to import biodiesel?
The American Soybean Assoc. (ASA) expressed outrage on Monday over the announcement that large quantities of biodiesel will be imported to take advantage of the new tax incentive for biodiesel sold in the United States.

The U.S. Congress enacted the biodiesel tax incentive to create a new market for U.S. soybean oil and other domestic feedstocks, and to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported oil.

“Importing biodiesel will only subsidize foreign farmers and biodiesel producers with U.S. taxpayer dollars,” said ASA President Bob Metz, a South Dakota soybean farmer. “The Administration and Congress must act immediately to eliminate loopholes that allow foreign biodiesel from exploiting a key part of our national strategy for reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.”

On Monday, EarthFirst Americas, Inc., said its first shipment of palm oil-based biodiesel from Ecuador had arrived at the Port of Tampa, Fla., and that additional shipments are planned that could total 45 million gallons in 2006, and 100 million gallons in 2007. U.S. biodiesel production in 2005 is expected to total about 30 million gallons, with plans to expand domestic output to 80 million gallons in 2006, and as much as 200 million gallons in 2007.

“It was the clear intent of Congress to restrict agri-biodiesel feedstocks to a limited list of vegetable oils and animal fats,” Metz said. “ASA vehemently opposed the decision by the Internal Revenue Service to interpret the statute to allow biodiesel made from vegetable oils not specifically listed in the statute, including tropical oils such as palm oil, which are not produced in the United States, to qualify for the tax incentive.”

This farm news was published in the November 16, 2005 issue of Farm World.