U.S. presidential candidates' views on biofuels

By Kris Bevill | May 09, 2008
Web exclusive posted May 19, 2008 at 5:34 p.m. CST

With so many issues being discussed in the 2008 U.S. presidential race, the candidates have minimal time during a presentation to discuss in depth their views on all the topics. Therefore, EPM is providing a brief summary of Republican nominee John McCain and Democratic nominees Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's agendas for renewable fuels.

There are a few similarities between the candidates - but also some glaring differences. Sen. Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., have plans to continue funding research for cellulosic ethanol and other types of biomass-derived fuels. Both have a $150 billion, 10-year investment plan to fund the continuation of renewable energy technologies. However, Obama has not mentioned where the money will come from for his 10-year plan, but Clinton has stated that one-third of her $150 billion plan will be provided by a Strategic Energy Fund, partially financed by oil companies.

Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., has said he's in favor of using switchgrass, sugarcane and ethanol to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, but hasn't delivered a financial plan as to how he will support the advancement of those fuels.

Although he has said he supports ethanol, McCain is the only candidate who has taken a stance against ethanol subsidies. He doesn't support ethanol subsidies and said the industry is mature enough to exist without government help. According to McCain's Web site (www.johnmccain.com), he views ethanol subsidies and the current ethanol tariff as a source of higher transportation and food costs. "Ethanol subsidies, tariff barriers and sugar quotas drive up food prices and hurt Americans," McCain said on his Web site.

In early May, McCain was one of 24 Republican senators that signed a letter addressed to the U.S. EPA requesting a waiver of the renewable fuels standard. "We are very concerned that food-to-fuel mandates and subsidies have contributed to higher domestic and global food prices…although many factors may contribute to high food costs, food-to-fuel mandates are the only factors that can be reconsidered in light of changing circumstances," the letter stated.

A letter in defense of the renewable fuels standard was sent to the EPA by 16 senators, but neither Obama nor Clinton signed the letter.

According to Clinton's website (www.hillaryclinton.com), if elected president she will require 25 percent of all electricity in the United States to be generated by "renewables" by 2025 and 60 billion gallons of renewable fuel be made available to motorists by 2030. Clinton has pledged to double the government's investment in basic energy research, including funding a new federal research agency and would create a Strategic Energy Fund that would include tax credits for gas station owners who install E85 pumps at their facilities, as well as loan guarantees for the commercialization of cellulosic biofuels.

Obama's plan also requires 25 percent of electricity be generated by renewable resources by 2025 and 60 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be used by 2030. In addition, Obama has placed emphasis on biomass-derived fuels. If elected, Obama will offer tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts towards the development of "the most promising technologies." According to his website, (www.barackobama.com) Obama's goal is to have 2 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol on the market by 2013.

Obama is the only candidate to promote a venture capital fund. His energy plan includes $50 billion for a Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund that will "ensure that promising technologies move beyond the lab and are commercialized in the U.S," Obama said on his Web site.