The Affordable Alternative to Record Gas Prices

By Tom Buis | May 16, 2011

Analysts are saying that new record gas prices are likely this summer driving season. That won’t just hurt at the filling station. It’ll hurt throughout the household budgets of all Americans, as high oil prices will mean higher gas and grocery prices—and a threat to the still-recovering economy.

At the same time that everyday Americans are feeling the budget squeeze, the big oil companies are raking in enormous profits. Americans are starting to get angry. In the first quarter this year, the top five major oil companies in the United States reported soaring profits as gas and oil prices skyrocketed to their highest peaks in three years. Even BP, which set aside $400 million to cover costs from the Deepwater Horizon spill, reported a 17 percent increase in its profits of $7.1 billion for the quarter.

Public anger is spurring some members of Congress to action. We may see legislative support for President Obama’s proposal to end the excessive tax incentives the oil industry has enjoyed for years. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “When BP makes billions in profits, even after the year they just had, you know it’s time to cap the gusher of tax breaks that have been subsidizing the biggest oil companies for decades.”

Not only are the tax subsidies lopsidedly in support of deeply entrenched oil companies, but so are the market supports. Growth Energy is proposing that we redirect some portion of tax support for energy and use that to invest it in giving motorists greater access to the only commercially viable alternative fuel that we have today: domestic ethanol.

Today, the oil industry benefits from permanent subsidies and government regulations that give oil a near monopoly on the fuels market, forcing motorists to use gasoline refined from oil. That is why Growth Energy proposed its Fueling Freedom plan, which would redirect ethanol tax policy in a manner that would help boost the number of flex-fuel vehicles on the road and flex-fuel pumps at filling stations.

There are already nearly 300 flex-fuel pumps in the United States, and the recently announced USDA Rural Energy for America Program will provide loans and grants to help retailers install thousands more across the country in the next five years. But we must take further steps.

With more flex-fuel vehicles on the road and more flex-fuel pumps to provide midlevel ethanol blends, Americans would have a genuine choice in the marketplace. Consumers could make their choice based on price or performance, reducing the skyrocketing cost of gasoline derived from oil, and keeping more money here in America, instead of sending it overseas.

Ethanol is better for the environment than gasoline and it helps our rural communities thrive. Every gallon of imported oil we displace with domestic ethanol strengthens our national security and our economy.

Ethanol is the only progress this nation has made in reducing our dependence on foreign oil in more than 40 years. Blending 10 percent ethanol into our fuel reduces gas prices by as much as 35 cents a gallon, displaces millions of barrels of imported oil every year and removes harmful emissions from the air.

And we can do more if we open the market to higher blends.

This year, Congress has the opportunity to accelerate our nation’s progress toward energy independence by cutting oil subsidies and investing in job-creating, air-cleaning ethanol. By the time you read this article, we hope Congress will have already taken the first step toward achieving these goals. If not, we will continue to work with them to open up the market to give consumers access to clean, affordable, domestically produced fuel.

Author: Tom Buis
CEO, Growth Energy