A View form the Hill

New Year — Same Goal
By Bob Dinneen | January 01, 2004
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With Congress back in Washington, D.C. for the 2nd session of the 108th Congress, attention returns to the yet-unfinished comprehensive energy bill. It will come as no surprise that the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is continuing to press for final passage of the bill including the renewable fuels standard (RFS) fuels agreement and important ethanol tax provisions such as the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and modifications to the small ethanol producer tax credit.

Opportunities to pass major legislation will be scant in 2004. The presidential primary season has begun, Congress continues to work on last year's spending bills, and Members want this session to end on time so they can go home to campaign. Simply put, between the lack of legislative days and the influence of presidential politics permeating every policy discussion, there's not much hope for a productive Congress.

For these reasons, the RFA remains committed to pushing the energy bill through the Senate in the next couple of months. Passing the energy bill is the simplest and most likely way for our legislative priorities to become law.

But, if the energy bill fails to gain the support necessary to get it through the U.S. Senate, the RFA is committed to pursuing all other avenues for enacting the RFS fuels agreement and the ethanol tax provisions. It will be more difficult outside of the energy bill parameters, but the ethanol provisions continue to enjoy overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.

Under any legislative scenario, the demand for ethanol will continue to be strong for the foreseeable future. Ethanol is now a vital coast-to-coast gasoline additive that is increasingly sought after for its clean-burning, high-octane properties. The ethanol industry will continue to work hard to be recognized as a reliable, cost-effective partner for our customers in the petroleum industry.

Our track record is envious. California, New York and Connecticut all switched from MTBE to ethanol at the end of 2003. The transition went smoothly and consumers in all three states have been pleased with the change. Ethanol producers and marketers should be rightly proud of this accomplishment. After all, these markets represent roughly 1.4 billion gallons of annual demand.

Even as we enter 2004 with the satisfaction of new markets along both coasts, the ethanol industry's goals remain clear: We must enact important tax legislation and the RFS fuels agreement; we must continue to meet our customers' demands as other states consider switching to ethanol; and, ethanol must remain a reliable gasoline blendstock from coast-to-coast. A tall order to be sure, but the ethanol industry is used to tackling challenges.

Bob Dinneen
President and CEO,
Renewable Fuels Association