Senators Introduce Bipartisan Ethanol Education and Expansion Act
Today in an effort to provide Americans relief from record high gas prices U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barack Obama, (D-IL), Kit Bond (R-MO), George Voinovich (R-OH), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation to expand consumer access to 85 percent ethanol fuel, or E-85, an affordable, home-grown alternative to gasoline. The Ethanol Education and Expansion Act of 2007 would work to reduce prices at the pump for consumers by providing grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to farmer-owned ethanol producers to install additional E-85 pumps at rural gas stations as well as the equipment needed to sell E-85 directly to gas stations.
"Gas prices topped $3.22 nationwide this week, Americans can only fill up half their tanks, and the oil companies are raking in record profitspeople want cheaper and environmentally safe alternative fuels, like E-85," remarked Sen. Klobuchar. "This bill not only helps Americans pay less at the pump by making sure they can find E-85 at their local gas station, but it helps the farmers of the Midwest invest in homegrown renewable energy."
"Reducing our nation's consumption of gasoline and encouraging the use of renewable fuels, like ethanol, are important steps in combating global climate change," said Sen. Obama. "Expanding our ethanol infrastructure, as this legislation proposes, will inject competition into the market, give Americans the power to choose domestically produced, environmentally-friendly fuel and reduce our dependence on expensive foreign oil."
Ethanol has become a popular alternative for the 6 million Americans with flexible fuel vehicles (vehicles capable of using gas or E-85 as fuel) looking for relief at the pump and an environmentally-friendly fuel. However, many consumers have a hard time finding E-85, since it is available at just 1,200 stations - less than one percent of the approximately 170,000 gas stations in the U.S.
"As hard working Americans continue to feel the pain at the pump, we need to provide access to more energy alternatives to fuel consumers," said Sen. Bond. This bill is a good step towards making our country more energy independent. The addition of E-85 pumps will better serve our nation's need for a reliable renewable resource."
"Keeping America competitive in the global marketplace requires an overhaul of our national energy policy - we must become less reliant on foreign sources on energy," Sen. Voinovich said. "To do so, we must increase our energy supply, conserve more energy and explore and expand our use of new technologies including E-85. Our bill will help dramatically increase the availability of E-85, making it a viable source of fuel for everyday Americans who are committed to our nation's energy independence."
As part of the grant program, the bill would allow farmer-owned ethanol producers to install the infrastructure needed to bypass oil companies and sell E-85 directly to gas stations. This would ensure that American farmers receive the benefits of home grown fuels such as E-85.
The bill would also create the new E-85 Education Program, which would award competitive grants to non-profit organizations to educate gas station owners, vehicle fleet operators and the general public about the benefits and availability of E-85.
Currently, most ethanol is sold to oil companies who then re-sell to gas stations, often at higher prices. Klobuchar's bipartisan proposal eliminates the middle man, thus reducing prices at the pump for consumers and keeping energy dollars in the Midwest instead of lining the pockets of oil cartels in the Middle East.
"Renewable fuels are one of the keys to America's drive toward energy independence. These fuels reduce our reliance on foreign oil and enhance our ability to control our own security and economic future - while helping our farmers by increasing demand for their crops," Durbin said. "One of the biggest challenges in increasing the use of renewable fuels is that many consumers don't have access to fuels like E-85. This legislation takes an important step toward overcoming this hurdle and paves a path to greater production and use of renewable fuels."
Sen. Klobuchar will work to include the legislation in the 2007 Farm Bill, which the Senate is expected to take up in the coming months. The bill sets the amount of federal grant assistance at 20 percent of the total project cost, providing enough funding to complete 1,000-2,000 new E-85 pumps over the five-year life of the Farm Bill.
Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Hilary Clinton (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and John Kerry (D-MA) are also co-sponsors of the legislation.