Ethanol: Affordable, clean and we don’t have to wait

As the debate over our nation’s energy and climate policy takes center stage, the grassroots members of the American Coalition for Ethanol encourage Congress to capitalize on an opportunity to break oil’s grip on U.S. consumers and unleash ethanol’s ability to help create a clean energy future.

Some have accused clean energy supporters of “opportunism” in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. Yet none of the concerns expressed about our unhealthy reliance on oil during the past two weeks are new – the recent disaster is merely the latest, most visible example of how many problems we have been willing to ignore while we continue to feed our addiction.

It is also foolish to think the tragedy won’t compel Congress to respond, just as Congress reacted to the Exxon Valdez oil disaster.

Today, conventional oil supplies are being tapped out and maintaining our current level of addiction forces us to hunt for scarce deposits in deepwater wells or in the Canadian tar sands.  These unconventional sources of oil are expensive and incompatible with the goals of a clean energy future.

Ethanol is the most affordable and clean-burning alternative to gasoline.  More importantly, unlike other promising alternatives, we don’t have to wait for ethanol. It is here now as the only commercially viable substitute for oil.

As the federal government formulates an energy and climate plan in response to the Gulf spill, it should consider three policies that would help us pivot from our unsustainable oil addiction to a clean energy future:

• Congress should extend tax credits for corn and cellulosic ethanol, which provide consumers with affordable and clean biofuel.  Bipartisan legislation (H.R. 4940, S. 3231) has been introduced to extend the credits and save the 112,000 American jobs that depend on them.

• EPA should approve the use of 15 percent ethanol in gasoline for all cars.  Consumers would pay considerably less for fuel and new domestic jobs would be created.

• Congress should expand consumer fuel choice by enacting legislation to deploy more Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) and blender pumps that can dispense a range of ethanol/gasoline blends.  FFVs can use any blend of ethanol and gasoline and would force petroleum to compete at the pump.  Similarly, blender pumps empower consumers to choose the most affordable fuel for their car.  To this end, ACE supports S. 1627, the Harkin-Lugar “Consumer Fuels and Vehicle Choice Act.”

Sioux Falls, S.D.