Senators introduce renewable fuel pipeline legislation

By Erin Voegele | March 05, 2009
Web exclusive posted April 7, 2009, at 4:00 p.m. CST

Legislation being considered by the U.S. Senate seeks to encourage the construction and use of pipelines to transport renewable fuels. S.828, also known as the Renewable Fuels Pipeline Act of 2009, would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to provide loan guarantees for projects to construct renewable fuel pipelines. The legislation was introduced April 4 by U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Thune (R-SD) and Tim Johnson (D-SD). The bill has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

According to information contained within the bill, creating the appropriate infrastructure to move renewable fuels is a necessary energy and transportation objective for the United States. More than 70 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply is currently delivered to local terminals through pipelines, which was the most cost-efficient and safe transportation mode used in 2009 to deliver large volumes of liquid fuels. Renewable fuels, however, are currently transported primarily by truck, barge and rail. The legislation states that the volume requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will require an expansion of the renewable fuels infrastructure.

While the Midwest and Plains states produce the majority if the biofuels in U.S., the nation currently lacks the infrastructure to efficiently transport these liquid fuels to population centers in the East Coast and elsewhere. The bill will address this issue by encouraging the construction and use of pipelines which can easily transport these fuels in a clean, safe and cost efficient manner.

When compared to other forms of biofuel transportation, pipelines have the lowest energy input requirements and produce the least amount of carbon emissions. In fact, pipelines produce 30 percent less emissions than railcars and 87 percent less than trucks. Pipeline transport of biofuels is also safer than using trucks or trains. In addition to these efficiently and safety advantages, it is estimated that the construction projects related to the renewable fuels pipelines will create up to 25,000 jobs nationally.

"We must seize control of our energy future and take major steps towards the use of clean, renewable home-grown sources of energy," said Harkin. "Promoting the planning and development of projects that transport renewable fuels efficiently and inexpensively helps enlarge the market for biofuels like ethanol, reduces our dependence on foreign fuels and will provide good construction jobs."

"Pipelines are the safest, most reliable, and cost effective way to move biofuels from the areas they are produced to the markets where they are consumed," said Thune. "These pipelines will reduce energy costs across the country as well as create an estimated 25 jobs for every $1 million of construction. Access to ethanol-dedicated pipelines will benefit both consumers and the ethanol industry for years to come."

"Many experts believe that a pipeline network to transport biofuels is necessary to achieve the aggressive renewable fuel requirements," said Johnson. "But limited transportation options of truck, rail and barge will only get us so far. Pipelines are necessary to get this fuel moving to where the people are. These loan guarantees will spur pipeline development and help create new jobs and lower our dependence on foreign sources of energy."