Action Now'

Is administration support enough to spur Congress to extend ethanol incentives?
By Kris Bevill | November 15, 2010
Administration officials have recently voiced support for ethanol, but it remains to be seen whether that support will translate into ethanol-friendly Congressional action during the lame duck session.
Most outspoken has been Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who unveiled a USDA plan in October to cost share on the installation of 10,000 blender pumps in the next five years. He supports an extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and the ethanol import tariff. The revised renewable fuels standard (RFS2) will account for 1 million new jobs, he says. "I believe the state of the rural economy and President Obama's vision for rural America compels us to action now," he explains. "I believe the goals articulated within the RFS2 mandate action now. And I believe the need for energy security, a cleaner environment and better economic opportunity in rural America make the case for action now." Vilsack has urged the U.S. EPA to expand its E15 approval to include vehicle models 2001 and newer and says he expects that approval by the end of this year.

In a recent speech to members of the Renewable Fuels Association, Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change policy, also emphasized the White House's positive view of ethanol. "This administration is working to provide continued support for first-generation corn ethanol, which we believe is a critically important renewable fuel source," she said. "At the same time, we're also looking forward and are working to accelerate the creation and rapid deployment of advanced biofuels, which we think will ultimately become one of the nation's most important industries in the years to come." Zichal told RFA members the administration believes VEETC works, but it is seeking ways to reform it. "I always like to remind people that before President Obama was president, he came from Illinois," she said. "So he's no stranger to biofuels."

Ethanol opponents have waged an aggressive campaign to sway Congressional members away from further ethanol support, citing reports that show a 12-month VEETC extension would cost $6 billion and claiming that increased ethanol usage in older vehicles will result in greater, rather than less, pollution.