State Journal-Register

May 18, 2001

Illinois farmers want more support for ethanol fromWashington 


WASHINGTON - Some ethanol supporters found solace Thursday in the fact that President Bush's energy plan recommends continuing federal tax incentives for ethanol production until 2007.

But Illinois farmers are fuming over the Bush administration's failure to take immediate steps to increase the usage of the corn-based fuel additive.

"For years, we've been calling for a national energy policy that carves out a significant role for ethanol and renewable fuels," said Illinois Farm Bureau President Ron Warfield. "But now that the time has finally come, we're extremely disappointed."

Illinois is the nation's leading producer of ethanol, which is blended with gasoline to make it less polluting. 

Warfield also complained that Bush didn't use the energy announcement to deny California's request for a waiver from fuel-additive requirements. Such a denial could greatly expand the ethanol market.

Bush administration officials have been saying for months now that a decision on the waiver was imminent.

Warfield protested that ethanol was relegated to the back burner by Bush, who emphasized great oil, gas and nuclear power production as the means to achieve greater energy security.

"Farmers are planting fields of renewable, clean-burning energy. Ethanol production reduces the demand for foreign oil. It's disappointing to hear our best arguments for biofuels being used to support stepped up production of non-renewable forms of energy," Warfield said.

Other ethanol boosters, such as the Renewable Fuels Association, accented the positive, praising the Bush plan for highlighting ethanol's role in reducing air pollution, for continuing the tax incentives and pledging funding for more research into renewable fuels.

Association President Eric Vaughn said the plan sends "a positive, long-term signal for ethanol."

The plan also noted that conflicting state and local clean-fuel requirements might cause regional shortages. It calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to review ways to alleviate that problem without reducing the environmental benefits. Greater uniformity in local requirements also could boost ethanol, Vaughn said.

Illinois' two senators, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Peter Fitzgerald both said they support Bush's efforts on renewable energy, but oppose his plan to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.