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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - March 17, 2005)

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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I am pleased to join as a cosponsor of the Fuels Security Act of 2005, which sets a renewable fuels standard for the years 2006 to 2012.

To lessen our dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our economy here at home, renewable fuels like ethanol ought to be a larger part of our domestic fuel supply. This bill will contribute to that objective, and I commend Senators Lugar and Harkin for their leadership in crafting this legislation.

Yesterday, during the markup of a similar bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I expressed strong support for establishing a meaningful renewable fuels standard as an important part of a comprehensive national energy policy. The bill before the Committee set targets at 3.8 billion gallons in 2006 and 6 billion gallons in 2012, improving upon last year's RFS provision in the energy bill conference report that set targets at 3.1 billion gallons and 5 billion gallons, respectively.

I voted for the chairman's mark yesterday because it gets the RFS debate rolling in the new Congress. However, I also noted that it has been widely reported in the trade press that the 30-state Governors Ethanol Coalition has recommended to the President that refiners be required to purchase a minimum volume of ethanol of at least 4 billion gallons in 2006, rising to 8 billion gallons in 2012. This recommendation adds weight to the view expressed by me and others that the committee's targets are too conservative.

Why are these specific targets so important? They are important if we are to maximize the ethanol industry's ability to boost farm income by providing a new market for corn; to promote economic growth in rural communities by increasing production in existing plants and attracting investment in new community-sized ethanol facilities; and to reduce our alarming dependence on imported oil by expanding the volume of ethanol in our transportation fuel mix.

These are important objectives. They matter. And that is why it is important to get the specific targets right.

In committee yesterday, I suggested that since ethanol production is expected to reach 4 billion gallons this year, we ought to adjust the committee bill's RFS targets on the Senate floor to reflect current market reality. I am pleased that Chairman Inhofe seemed open to that debate.

I think the Governors Ethanol Coalition recommendation of at least 4 billion gallons in 2006 and 8 billion gallons in 2012 is a good place to start this debate. I think any RFS legislation enacted by Congress should contain these levels.

That is why I am pleased to cosponsor the Fuels Security Act introduced by Senators LUGAR and HARKIN today. The ethanol volume targets in this bill--4 billion gallons in 2006 and 8 billion gallons in 2012--are in much greater alignment with expected ethanol production in future years than those in the Committee bill.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to tour the Aventine ethanol plant in Pekin, IL. My visit reminded me of the work of a Pekin native more than 50 years ago. That person--Senator Everett Dirksen--encouraged federal lawmakers to consider ``processing our surplus farm crops into an alcohol ..... to create a market in our own land for our own people.''

Today, farmers across Illinois, including farmers near Pekin, are growing corn for fuel, both strengthening our energy security and providing an economic boost to rural communities. By enacting a meaningful RFS, we are displacing more foreign oil with homegrown energy. We are expanding the market for Illinois corn. And we are promoting the use of renewable fuel. Remember, unlike other energy sources, when you run out of ethanol, you can simply grow more.

For too many years, America has been overly dependent on foreign oil to meet its domestic energy needs. And, despite rising crude oil prices and unsettling volatility in the Persian Gulf, that trend is increasing, not declining. Renewable fuels such as ethanol can help address this dangerous dependence on foreign oil. And a strong renewable fuels standard will maximize this contribution.

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