U.S. presidential candidates' views vary on biofuels

By Kris Bevill | June 02, 2008
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 has compiled a brief summary of the renewable fuels agendas of Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, and democrat nominees Barack Obama and Hillary

Clinton. At press time, the democratic presidential nominee hadn't been selected.

There are a few similarities between the candidates—but also some glaring differences. Obama, D-Ill., and 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. Obama hasn't mentioned where the money for his plan will come from, 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.

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

Although he said he supports ethanol, McCain is the only candidate who has taken a stance against ethanol subsidies. He 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 cause of higher transportation and food costs. "Ethanol subsidies, tariff barriers and sugar quotas drive up food prices and hurt Americans," McCain said on the Web site.

According to Clinton's Web site (www.hillaryclinton.com), if elected president she will require that 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 a new federal research agency. She would also 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 that 60 billion gallons of renewable fuels be used by 2030. In addition, Obama has placed emphasis on biomass-derived fuels. If elected, Obama would offer tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts toward the development of "the most promising technologies." According to his Web site (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 for renewables. 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.