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Bush's biofuels goal matches Harkin, Lugar plan

Agriculture.com Staff 01/25/2007 @ 12:24pm

When President Bush laid out his expanded goals for cutting gasoline use and reducing dependence on foreign oil in Tuesday's State of the Union address, "nobody applauded louder than I," Senator Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee said Thursday.

"The President's goals echo the goals of the Harkin-Lugar bill," Harkin said, referring to a bill that he and other co-sponsors have introduced that would require the use of 60 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2030. President Bush called for 35 billion gallons of alternate fuels by 2017.

Harkin pointed out Thursday that the President's proposal, which would replace the current Renewable Fuels Standard of 7.5 billion gallons of biofuels by 2011, is actually a broader "Alternative Fuel Standard."

According to the White House, that broader AFS "will include sources such as corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, methanol, butanol, hydrogen and alternative fuels."

Harkin said he believes that alternative fuels will include motor fuel derived from coal.

"The question is, how much do they want to put into coal, which I'm really opposed to....The environmental aspects of that are mind-boggling,” Harkin told reporters. "I want it to be all renewable fuels."

Harkin also said he's pleased with the $1.6 billion in additional funding for research on cellulosic ethanol that Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced yesterday as part of USDA's own farm bill proposal. But, while it's an increase in how much Congress has appropriated for that research, Harkin said it's less than the amount already authorized by a law sponsored by Harkin and Lugar. That law authorizes spending of $200 million a year on cellulosic ethanol research. The new USDA proposal is for spending over 10 years, so it's actually $160 million per year.

Johanns" spokesman, Keith Williams, told Agriculture Online that the proposal is an increase over current spending and that it's just part of an expanded energy title that will be in Johanns' proposal for a new farm bill.

"That is a preview of what will be in the energy title," he said.

For his part, Senator Lugar also said he was pleased by the President's proposal and he, too, wants more action on alternative fuel use.

"In his State of the Union address, President Bush proposed to reduce petroleum based gasoline usage by 20% in the next ten years. These proposals can propel bipartisan cooperation on an energy agenda that will bring meaningful reductions in U.S. oil dependence. Congress has already begun debate on proposals, and I have introduced legislation with my colleagues from both parties that offers possibilities for joint efforts with the White House in meeting our shared vision to move beyond a petroleum based economy. I look forward to working with the President and with Senators on both sides of the aisle in the drafting and passage of important energy policy legislation," Lugar said in a statement released by his office.

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