Peoria Journal Star

January 25, 2007

President's words on alternative fuel praised by ethanol producer


BY
Dori Meinert
Copley News Service


WASHINGTON --
Ron Miller, president of Aventine Renewable Energy in Pekin and chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association, on Wednesday praised President Bush's call to increase the federal mandate for ethanol use in gasoline.
 
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Bush proposed a goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in 10 years. To do so, he wants to require oil companies to use 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels annually by 2017.
 
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Miller called that goal "exceedingly achievable.
 
""As an ethanol producer, I can say with confidence that our industry is up to the challenge," Miller said.
 
Congress in 2005 mandated the use of 7.5 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels a year, a level that could be soon reached. The ethanol industry produced 4.9 billion gallons in 2006. More than 111 ethanol biorefineries are currently in operation in 19 states including 11 in Illinois, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. Another 78 refineries are under construction.
 
The goal of 35 billion gallons of year can't be reached with ethanol alone, but would require the use of other alternative fuels, Miller and others said. But they see little threat to ethanol from the president's call for research into cellulosic ethanol, which would be made from corn stalks, wood chips or switchgrass.
 
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, said he was "heartened" to hear the president's concern about the need to reduce reliance on foreign oil and to invest in renewable energy. But he questioned whether those concerns would be reflected in the president's budget proposal when it comes to Congress next month.
 
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and other Midwestern senators have proposed increasing the renewable fuels mandate to 60 billion gallons a year by 2030.
 
Republican Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., senior Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, warned of unintended consequences from boosting the federal mandate again so soon."We must carefully measure the president's ambitious proposal to drastically increase the use of alternative fuels," Inhofe said.
 
Livestock producers have complained that current high demand for corn has driven up prices for feed.
 
Some groups noted that the president proposes to change the mandate to include alternative fuels, which could include what are known as coals-to-liquids fuels. That small change in the name could create a big change in pollution, said Anna Aurilio of U.S. Public Interest Research Group. It could double the global warming pollution, she said.
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Dori Meinert
can be reached at 202-737-7686 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com.