|By JANE HOUIN
Washington, D.C. — President George W. Bush is touting biodiesel and ethanol as a key component in his four-part plan to confront high gasoline prices. Bush announced his plan last week at a renewable fuel summit hosted by the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA in Washington, D.C., saying that Americans deserve alternative ways to drive their cars to make the country less dependent on foreign sources of oil.
“We owe it to the American people to be aggressive in the use of technology so we can diversify away from the hydrocarbon society,” Bush said.
In the energy policy speech, Bush listed four parts to his strategy to fight rising fuel costs: making sure consumers and taxpayers are treated fairly, promoting greater fuel efficiency, boosting the gasoline supply at home, and aggressive, long-term investment in alternative fuels.
“I think we need to follow suit on what we have been emphasizing, particularly through the energy bill, and that is to encourage conservation, to expand domestic production and to develop alternative sources of energy like ethanol,” Bush said. “I also support biodiesel fuel, which can substitute for regular diesel in cars, trucks, buses and farm equipment.”
Bush also mentioned his visit to a biodiesel plant last spring, Virginia, saying it was “a really interesting process to watch.” It was the first time an American president had visited a biodiesel plant.
“I like the idea of policy that combines agriculture and modern science with the needs of the American people,” Bush said. “Gasoline price increases are like a hidden tax on the working people. They’re like a tax on our farmers. They’re like a tax on small businesses. Energy experts predict gas prices are going to remain high throughout the summer, and that’s going to be a continued strain on the American people.”
Bush said America is addicted to oil and a rising amount of the oil America uses is from foreign countries, some of which have unstable governments or agendas hostile to the United States.
Because these countries know we need their oil, it reduces our influence on these countries.
Additionally, because the oil market is global and countries like China and India are consuming more and more oil, global demand is rising faster than global supply. As a result, oil prices are rising around the world, leading to higher gasoline prices in America.
America’s gasoline demand is expected to increase this summer, and our refining capacity is stretched tight, making it difficult for supply to keep pace with demand.
Compounding the problem, America is undergoing a rapid change in our fuel mix: a transition from MTBE to ethanol in certain fuel blends, and that transition is temporarily pushing gas prices even higher.
“It’s clear from the President’s remarks that biodiesel is a serious part of his strategy to make America more energy independent,” said Joe Jobe, chief executive officer of the National Biodiesel Board and summit moderator. “Our industry, along with the ethanol industry, is in a position to make a difference in the daily lives of Americans.
“It’s truly rewarding to have the President of the United States include biodiesel in his plan to address skyrocketing fuel prices,” said Bart Ruth, past president of the American Soybean Assoc. (ASA) who represented ASA at the RFA summit. “ASA has long advocated that farmers stand ready to help address our nation’s energy needs, and the President validated that point again.”
During his remarks, the President impressed the need to continue investing in alternative fuels.
“Research and development has lead to new alternative sources of energy like biodiesel,” Bush said. “So that’s one of the reasons why I signed into law the first ever federal tax credit for biodiesel producers. In other words, we’re interested in addressing our energy security on a variety of fronts. It makes sense for the United States to have a comprehensive strategy to help us diversify away from oil.”
ASA led the charge to enact the biodiesel tax credit in October 2004 as part of the JOBS Act. Ten months later, Congress extended this biodiesel provision until 2008, which would have expired at the end of this year.
ASA is currently working to extend the biodiesel tax incentive beyond 2008. To that end, ASA support S. 2401, introduced by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and H.R. 2498, introduced by U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo). Both pieces of legislation would extend the biodiesel tax incentive until 2010.
“Extending the biodiesel tax incentive beyond 2008 is one action Congress can take to help reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” Ruth said. “It’s a top priority for ASA, and we urge our supporters in both chambers of Congress to cosponsor these vitally important measures.”
Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel made from domestic resources, such as soybean oil or other domestic fats and vegetable oils. It can be used in any diesel engine with few or no modifications, and can be blended with petroleum diesel at any level. Biodiesel significantly cuts harmful environmental emissions.
Today, more than 600 major fleets use biodiesel commercially, and 700 retail filling stations make it available to the public.
This farm news was published in the May 3, 2006 issue of Farm World.