The road to energy independence

The road to energy independence
America's ethanol industry, while still in its early stages, has already begun to transform rural America. Additionally, home-grown ethanol holds great potential as a viable alternative to the foreign fuels American consumers use every day.

The federal government has invested heavily in domestic alternative fuel research and production and has established impressive production goals for the industry by the end of the next decade. But in order to meet those goals and ensure the viability of American-grown renewable fuels, we need to continue to focus on and invest in our own biofuels industry here at home.

Conditions are ripe for taking the next big step forward in bolstering America's energy independence. After several years of successful production and use of gasoline manufactured with 10 percent ethanol (E-10), it is now time for the federal government to set the stage for the production and use of a new blend of ethanol, E-20.

To that end, I recently wrote to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to request that the EPA begin preparing for a transition from the presently approved E-10 ethanol blended gasoline to E-20. I asked the EPA to begin the E-20 certification as soon as possible, to ensure timely clearance of all the bureaucratic hurdles scattered throughout the EPA.

EPA certification of E-20 will ensure uninterrupted growth of ethanol demand in the marketplace. Consistent market demand for ethanol will spur continued research to find alternatives to corn for making ethanol. These alternatives include switchgrass, wood chips and other biomass sources we grow here at home.

On the topic of foreign energy, I have serious concerns about the recent deal the administration made with the president of Brazil to promote ethanol production in Brazil. Along with increasing U.S. ethanol production, we also need to substantially expand ethanol's availability for flex-fuel vehicles coast-to-coast. Millions of flex-fuel vehicles are on the road today; and our automakers have pledged to manufacture more – but too few gas stations offer E-85 to flex-fuel vehicle drivers.

Consumers are asking for more options, and we need to make cleaner, more cost-effective alternative fuels more readily available. To meet the need for expanded E-85 fuel availability, I have introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide incentives to gas station owners to install alternative fuel pumps.

I will continue to work on these and other initiatives to promote the research, production and use of home-grown alternative fuels that strengthen rural America, provide more options for American consumers, and reduce our country's dangerous dependence on energy.

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