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White House needs to put money behind energy vision, senator says

Agriculture.com Staff 02/22/2006 @ 1:48pm

A day after speaking to the National Ethanol Conference, South Dakota Democratic Senator Tim Johnson said that President Bush needs to put more money into programs that support renewable fuels.

Like many long-time advocates for production of renewable fuels from crops, Johnson has welcomed Bush's high-profile support in his recent State of the Union speech. But he also remains skeptical of the details and concerned that Bush's own Department of Energy is forecasting continued increases in dependence of imported oil.

"We need more than just a goal or a vision to get the nation on the road to energy independence," Johnson told reporters Wednesday. The President's own 2007 budget underfunds spending on renewables authorized by last year's Energy Bill "to the tune of $290 million," Johnson added.

He also said that the federal government needs to do more to promote better fuel efficiency in motor vehicles and to encourage automakers to produce more flex-fuel vehicles that can burn up to 85% ethanol, a blend called E-85.

Senators Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, and Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, have already introduced a bill that would require automakers to make all vehicles flex-fuel within ten years of passage of the legislation. Both Ford and General Motors are ramping up production this year, but flex-fuel cars and trucks remain a small fraction of the total number on the road.

Johnson hasn't yet signed off on the bill but said, "I'm supportive of that goal."

When asked if he thought supplies of ethanol would be adequate for more widespread E-85 use, Johnson said he thinks there will be enough, even without using large amounts of ethanol made from cellulose, a process still considered experimental.

"I think that corn is going to be a significant source of ethanol for the foreseeable future," he said.

Johnson was one of several speakers at the National Ethanol Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada Tuesday and Wednesday. The meeting was sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association.

A day after speaking to the National Ethanol Conference, South Dakota Democratic Senator Tim Johnson said that President Bush needs to put more money into programs that support renewable fuels.

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