Sens. want ethanol items added to energy bill

By Kris Bevill | October 14, 2010
Posted Nov. 11, 2010

A group of four senators delivered a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Nov. 9, calling for biofuels market expansion items to be added to pending energy legislation. The group also stressed the need for an extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit while Congress evaluates potential modifications to the program.

The group of senators, which included Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Christopher Bond, R-Mo., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said they are encouraged by recent progress made in vehicle fuel efficiency and the increasing amount of biofuels being used in the country's transportation fuel supply. However, the senators wrote that limitations which could prevent increased expansion of biofuels, such as infrastructure constraints and the ethanol blend wall, leave them "deeply concerned." Therefore, the group is calling for increased production of flex-fuel vehicles, the establishment of ethanol pipelines and greater availability of ethanol fuel dispensers at retail stations. "One of our most pressing energy issues is our continued dependence on imported petroleum for fueling our transportation systems," the senators wrote. "We therefore urge you to include biofuels market expansion provisions addressing these barriers in energy legislation considered by the Senate."

The group also urged Reid to address VEETC prior to its scheduled expiration on Dec. 31, stating that the program is vital to retaining jobs within the ethanol industry. "While we believe that the VEETC program deserves review in the context of broader discussions about how best to address the most important limitations facing biofuels, it is very important to not let this support program lapse while those discussions take place," the senators said in their letter.

Industry representatives from Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association agreed that time is of the essence regarding a VEETC extension, and said program modifications can be made after the extension is granted. Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said the industry welcomes reform to ethanol tax credits, but there is not enough time left in the congressional session to debate changes to the program.

"We are not giving up hope that an extension of VEETC can happen in the lame duck," said RFA communications director Matt Hartwig. "However, we recognize that an extension is certainly not guaranteed."