U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) praised the agreement on energy legislation reached by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an important step toward diversifying the country's energy supply and strengthening the economy of rural America. The legislation includes an immediate expansion of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to 36 billion gallons by 2022 and lays important groundwork for the future adoption of a national low-carbon fuels standard, proposals that Obama and Harkin had jointly proposed previously as a means of reducing the country's dependence on fossil fuels, combating climate change and promoting economic growth in rural communities.
In October, in the face of a precipitous decline in the price of ethanol which threatens the viability of community-sized ethanol plants and discourages private sector investment in cellulosic biomass ethanol technologies, Obama and Harkin introduced a bill that would boost the price of ethanol by requiring the use of more renewable fuels in the nation's gasoline pool. Today's high gas prices coupled with low ethanol prices are a clear indication that an increased RFS is needed. The updated RFS passed the Senate earlier this year in comprehensive energy legislation but is currently languishing due to controversy about other elements of that energy bill.
"If we're going to get serious about investing in our energy future we must give our family farmers and local ethanol producers a fair shot at success," Senator Obama said. "They have grown the ethanol industry from the ground up, and are demonstrating the potential of innovative technologies to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and moderate gas prices. But I continue to hear from farmers and the managers of community ethanol facilities about how this drop in the price of ethanol is not only threatening their livelihood but also the future of the biofuels industry, including the transition from corn ethanol to cellulosic biomass ethanol. The compromise bill announced by Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi today will prevent Big Oil from continuing to depress the ethanol market and help assure this promise is fulfilled."
"The potential for America to supply a great deal of our energy from domestic sources is enormous, but it is past time for government to provide a signal to producers, marketers and consumers of renewable fuels that we are serious about renewables as a long-term and significant segment of our transportation fuel supply," said Harkin. "Securing a new renewable fuels standard will ensure the continued viability and expansion of locally-owned ethanol and biodiesel plants while providing a necessary incentive for investments in emerging, next-generation biofuels production."
Obama and Harkin also commended Reid and Pelosi for recognizing that U.S. energy policy cannot ignore the effect of climate change and establishing of 20, 50 and 60 percent carbon reduction targets for biofuels over the next 15 years. In May, Obama and Harkin introduced legislation establishing a national Low-Carbon Fuel Standard which established similar goals.
"I am delighted to see this important legislation moving forward and I commend Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi," said Harkin.
"Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi deserve great credit for their vision in crafting this energy bill," Obama added. "I share their view that it is time to lead the country toward a low carbon future, and I appreciate their acknowledgment that American agriculture has a prominent role to play in this effort."